By Marsha M. Brown
This column started out in March 2012 as a one-time tribute to my U. S. Army and Vietnam veteran husband, Billy. It was to honor him and all his brothers and sisters who have served our country; it was a means of my thanking him publicly for his service, his sacrifice, his love of our flag, our Constitution and for the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.
As it turned out, the one-time article became a weekly column that Billy and I entitled ‘Gig Line’. Contrary to misinterpretation that the term relates to fishing, it in fact references a military uniform and the alignment of the shirt (buttons), belt buckle and trouser fly – a perfectly straight line from the top to the bottom. What it further represented to me was a writing ‘straight’ from my heart about ‘my’ veteran…our love, life and family and the importance to acknowledging all our past, present and future military personnel.
On May 7, 2012 after presenting to our Dare County Board of Commissioners the need to establish a means to reach out to and connect with our veteran population in Dare County, especially after determining through research that we had in excess of 4,400 veterans here, the Commissioners established the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council…much to the joy of veterans from every village and town on the Outer Banks. To this day, I am extremely proud of our governing body, for their initial interest and for the great work and support from our currently sitting Commissioners toward showcasing our veterans as well. Through their combined efforts, in conjunction with our Veteran Service Officer, Patty O’Sullivan, the seven-member Advisory Council, our businessmen and women and most importantly our veterans themselves, we have come a long way baby! Dare County overall is more cognizant, involved and engaged in demonstrating how much our veterans mean to us as and Dare County is recognized overall as a veteran friendly community which I thank God for every single day.
The Council created a Discount Card for all veterans who either reside in Dare County by means of a lease or property ownership; who can produce their DD-214 showing they were discharged under Honorable circumstances and a Driver’s License (not necessarily for Dare County or even North Carolina). Upon producing the required docs for our review only (no copies are taken or kept), the veteran is issued a Dare County Veteran Discount Card whereby he or she can purchase goods and services from nearly 100 businesses from Corolla to Hatteras Village at proprietor determined percentages…some offer 10% – 15% and even 20% discounts. In addition, the Dare Arts Council has shown major interest in serving our veterans and their family members offering various workshops, entertainment and social gatherings that celebrate our veterans who even travel from across our nation in which to participate. The workshops encourage veterans to write their thoughts, their music etc. and through their self-expression (even if no one sees their work but themselves), the benefit is primarily to “get it out” on paper. The vets do not have to share their innermost thoughts or memories with anyone else unless they choose to and if they find they like to write more than they anticipate, they have an opportunity to receive some professional guidance on how to proceed with potential publishing of their material…unequivocally…the Veterans Writing Project was monumental in Billy’s life – it is without question a source of healing, comradery with others who have experienced war and I saw it as a real blessing to him (and to me). The workshops whether for writing in general or song writing typically occur during Veteran’s Day week each year and I can attest to the incredible value of veteran’s participation.
For those of you who customarily read Gig Line, you know that I sometimes write very personal, heartfelt stories about my husband, Billy. As a result of his service in Vietnam and exposure to Agent Orange, Billy was diagnosed with Diabetes II then later Glioblastoma Multiforme IV brain cancer which took his life in 2016. Billy was the light of my life…my absolute best friend…my lover…my prayer partner and the most exceptional patriot I have ever known. He exemplified the spirit of what it means to be “true-blue” in his thoughts and actions …he taught me many things…he was a man’s man…strong as a bull, but gentle as could be (unless he thought something might threaten the safety and well-being of his family)…he was a Christian man who loved the Lord and held onto His Almighty hand overseas and following his return home following T.E.T. in 1968 until he drew his very last breath.
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I want you all to know something, especially now…what I write in my columns is a result of prayer and Gig Line is strictly…an ‘Opinion Column’. In these trying times and very recently, I have written at least two lengthy columns that I chose not to submit for publication after all. Why? Because honestly, I believe in straight down the line discussions, expressing my heart-to-heart experiences and I believe in accountability and fairness. With the challenges we face, I can sort things out…think for myself…look at both sides of topics important to our nation (that Billy would care about as well)…and I can weigh the pros and cons debating their value or lack thereof…equally; I am NOT a dummy…my vision may be less than perfect but it isn’t so bad that I can’t see what is in front of my face…and my ears? They work pretty well too! I listen carefully…I watch body language…I research candidates and formulate my own opinion…I do not lean on my friends or even my parents political affiliation I grew up hearing about and while I respect their and everyone else’s opinion…I am an independent woman…I am registered as an Independent…and I am a proud American who acknowledges our flaws but more importantly our virtues…I believe our Constitution is as solid as a rock and I’m extremely disappointed in those who stand by eager to break it down, chip it away or dismantle it altogether.
I voted yesterday…I could hardly wait. I voted with a clear mind, a prayerful heart and a hope that the people of our nation who appreciate our way of life, the customs we’ve enjoyed, the celebrations we hold dear, who proudly acknowledge the greatest influence in this world, our Heavenly Father…our mighty military…our police officers and all of the good, sincere public servants that stand for our flag and the inspirations of our Founding Fathers…vote as well.
As for me…I’m unapologetically American and I love this country and all of the men and women who have suffered and died to preserve it and their families too who weep at their loss…I am a Christian who loves God and Jesus Christ His son and the Holy Spirit who has comforted me time and time again throughout my life. We have our issues and hurdles still to cross and overcome, but I would not trade our way of life for anything in this world…nor for any amount of money…nor for fortune or fame. We as citizens of these great United States either love this country…even with its frailties…or we don’t…in my opinion…it’s just that simple.
Please exercise your right to cast a vote for the candidate of your choice…it is crucial. If you have not mailed your ballot in by absentee vote etc., but you are not up to going in or standing in line, choose curb side voting. The poll workers are extremely helpful…but by all means…PLEASE vote and make your (silent) voice heard.
If you are a vet or know of one who could use some help, please either call myself, cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me: [email protected] or…contact Patty O’Sullivan, V.S.O. at (252) 475-5604 or write to her at [email protected] If you would like to acquire your own Veteran Discount Card but you have lost your DD-214, Patty can help you apply for a replacement, submit a claim and explain potential benefits to you as a veteran.
Until next time, be happy, be safe…stay well and for goodness sake be proud! We have the mightiest men and women in the world in our midst…our veterans…our active duty and those who aspire to join our U. S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Space Force and National Guard! God bless you all…and next week folks, very respectfully…no holds barred. Stay tuned!