By Marsha M. Brown
‘Thinking Back But…Moving Forward’
Since the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council was established on May 7, 2012, I’ve been actively involved in it as a member/Secretary, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. Over these ten (10) years I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting veterans who have served and survived various wars and conflicts and many who have served stateside on guard to protect our country and all of us. Honestly, it’s an understatement to say that each veteran I have come to know has touched my life in some way.
When preparing a presentation to our sitting Board of Commissioners back then, I had researched what number of Veterans a group dedicated to their ‘good’ could serve – and to my surprise, I was told (per Raleigh) that we had approximately 4,400 Veterans here in Dare County.
Since we were not privy to acquire the names of our Veterans (being confidential of course) my husband and Vietnam Veteran knew that others who had served in Vietnam often didn’t acknowledge it (especially after being treated so horribly once they came home); that being said, how could we find out who they (you all) were? Could they be our neighbor? Our teachers? Our First Responders? We wanted to give our Veterans a warm welcome and a sincere THANK YOU for the service and sacrifice given for us; we also wanted to invite our Vets to tell us if there was something we could do to help them…as in our Veteran Service Officer, Patty O’Sullivan (previously Rhonda Creef) who could assist them in filing a V.A. Disability Claim or help them enroll in the V.A. Health Care system in the event they might have a service connected illness or injury; or to acquire a replacement DD-214 if the original had been lost or misplaced over the years and in general to let them know how important our Veterans are to everyone!
It became apparent that we had to create a means to draw our Veterans to us, so after the Council was officially established, we wanted to introduce them to the potential benefit of the V.A. health care system and what options might be available to help them.
It was at that point the Council collectively created he Dare County Veteran Discount Card (initially referred to as the Dare County Veteran I.D. Card) which is exactly just that…a means to be honored by our business owners across the Outer Banks by receiving a discount on their goods/services.
To acquire the ‘Card’ you (the Veteran) must:
- either reside in Dare County as a tenant named on a Lease Agreement or have a utility bill in their name.
- by a Property Tax bill for property ownership of either improved or vacant land,
- and a Driver’s License with the Veteran’s name/photo, however…it doesn’t have to be a North Carolina Driver’s License,
- and…the Veteran’s DD-214 showing Honorable Discharge
The whole process takes all of 10-15 minutes and at that point, Veterans are issued a pre-numbered hard plastic ‘Card’ that looks like a credit card…and that free ‘Card’ will entitle our incredible, deserving Veterans to discounts from 10% to 15% to 20% at nearly 100 businesses offering goods & services from Hatteras Village to Corolla. If you, a Veteran, Retired, Reserve (or Active Duty) of our U. S. Armed Forces, would like to acquire your ‘Card’, please call or text my cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org OR…contact our V.S.O. Patty O’Sullivan at her office: (252) 475-5604, her work cell: (252) 473-7749 or through email: email@example.com If you call either of us, please clearly leave your name and cell or home phone number and we will respond to you ASAP. Also, if you have a computer, please access: www.darenc.com – search Veteran Discount Card where you should see a list of all the business establishments that offer Veteran discounts, how much discount and what town or village they are located in.
Also…and very importantly…sometimes we talk to veterans who are taken care of by their spouse or family member at home. Depending on the severity of their disability of the Veteran, there is a V.A. Caregiver Support Program (Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers also known as PCAFC) that could be of great help if the Veteran is eligible. “The program is for eligible Veterans who have incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975 or on or after September 11, 2001. This program provides resources, education, support, a financial stipend, and health insurance (if eligible), beneficiary travel (if eligible), to caregivers of eligible Veterans.” If you might be in that situation, please consider reviewing their website: caregiver.va.gov or search under U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs where this reference was found.
Please understand that Patty is the only official liaison between our Veterans in Dare County and the V.A. so, if you’d like to talk with Patty about the caregiver program, please call her to discuss the topic further.
On another matter, most of us have heard about the issues relating to the water contamination and consumption at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. If you’ve seen T.V. commercials regarding this serious matter, they are typically generated by law firms who seek opportunities to help or represent Veterans who might be affected if they lived or worked there between the years of 1953 to 1987. Please search VA.gov, then search Camp Lejeune water contamination and from there you’ll see a lot of helpful information.
As a Veteran, you are so deserving of every available source of help, medical care and financial support if you’re deemed eligible by the V.A. – PLEASE take the time to care about yourself…in doing so, you may realize some sources of relief for you and your spouse…trust me…I can attest first hand to the fact that if my husband had not taken the time and effort to investigate whether his medical issues were a result of exposure to Agent Orange…I would have lost our home after his passing.
When he passed, his Dare County retirement ceased…his part-time job with Dare County ceased…my Social Security check also ceased (because the surviving widow or widower receives only one check – not both SS checks and it’s the higher S.S. check of the two…that was his check, so mine stopped immediately. And even with his life insurance, it lasted but so long and with all the other income dissolved it’s been a real struggle. As a widow having had health issues of my own, much of what my husband, Billy, did at home I’ve had to hire other people to do. With a severely arthritic knee, I can’t crawl up on a ladder, or clean – cover & maintain the pool, mow the yard, trim the bushes, repair his truck, pressure wash the house…things like that must be done so those expenses are in addition to the house payment, utilities…and the beat goes on. I’m not whining…nor do I want sympathy, it’s just the simple facts of life…widows and widowers have to adjust accordingly…all of us do. Our kids help me whenever they can and I love and appreciate their help and support so much. To be hones…I feel very blessed.
My husband…my absolute one and onlytrue love whom I married at 17 years old (not because we had to) had worked hard all his life. He provided for our family and our needs and wants were met throughout the 48+ years we were together before the Lord took him home. Why am I telling you this? Because I care about you…I care that you (like my husband) might be a little stubborn about talking with Patty or the V.A. to see if you qualify for V.A. Disability Compensation.
After two other local Veteran friends of Billy’s encouraged him to determine if the Diabetes II was Agent Orange related, he did and THANK YOU JESUS, he did.
I miss my husband…my HERO…every single day. Music that he liked, foods he enjoyed, fellow Veterans he was close to…our beautiful children and grandchildren…EVERYTHING makes me think of him…I miss him all the time and I thrive on the memories we made together. And believe you me, I’m thankful for everything about Billy and that God saw fit to bring us together to fall in love and marry. I also thank the Lord that Billy cared enough about me to go see the V.A. at which time, the blood tests, chest X-rays, urine samples and overall evaluations resulted in him (after 18 months) receiving Disability Compensation…PLEASE, PLEASE consider talking to Patty or contact a V.A. Medical facility to determine if your ailments might be service connected. Do it for you first and foremost and do it for your spouse if you have one.
You all in our Veteran community mean a lot to me. It was God who inspired me to write my first GIG LINE in March 2012. That first story was about Billy’s coming home from Vietnam (1968 having served during TET) and I’ve continued to write it weekly (typically) ever since. After he passed in 2016, I thought about how much GIG LINE meant to him because he loved his Veteran brothers and sisters, so I have continued to write in his (& your) honor. Sadly, he is no longer here to review what I write and give me a ‘thumbs up’ before I submit it to The Coastland Times; but I think he would be disappointed in me if I didn’t keep writing…loving all of you on his behalf and encouraging you to seek every positive or possible benefit you can from the V.A. – it’s not a gift or a hand out…you earned and DESERVE it!
My sweet loving husband whom I adored died because of Glioblastoma Multiforme IV – an aggressive and deadly brain cancer. The Diabetes II, the hypertension, the thyroid issues he suffered through were definite contributors, but it was the brain cancer that took him away five months after his diagnosis. And…though countless Veterans have suffered and died with the same disease, the V.A. still doesn’t recognize Glioblastoma as a presumptive illness…which means…his Claim was denied – so no compensation was awarded to him before he passed…so again…I thank the good Lord…and Billy that he submitted a Claim for the Diabetes II.
Until next time…be healthy, safe, and happy. If you get a chance, check out www.giglineheroes.com – it’s a great sleeping aid! 😊 Know this…you are special…all of you. Our children, our grandchildren & every Veteran I meet are my connection to my husband though he is far, far away. God bless you all – love your family to the moon and back. I love you and I’m thankful for you all and that you read GIG LINE…it would mean a lot to my Billy. Thank you for what you have given to this nation through your service and sacrifice. God loves you and so do I. Stay tuned.