By Marsha M. Brown
It’s amazing. If you’re a non-veteran but you’re in an atmosphere of veterans – perhaps with someone at a VA clinic or in an organizational meeting for a special veteran event…it doesn’t matter…wherever you are, if you’re in the midst of veterans…all you have to do is sit quietly, keep your mouth shut…and listen…not to be nosey…not to be intrusive…but out of respect and acknowledgement of the ‘voices of experience’…of lessons learned and of experiences recalled…and I promise that you’ll come away enlightened and somehow changed.
If you know me at all or if you read GIG LINE occasionally, it’s probable you know that my husband Billy and I actively engage in veteran related activities throughout Dare County. Billy is a Vietnam veteran who served in the U. S. Army during the T.E.T. Offensive and while he made a commitment in 1966 to faithfully defend our Constitution and our country from enemies both foreign and domestic, years later we have made another promise together and to God to do all that we can to help veterans whenever possible and honor and support them on a daily basis.
Being intricately involved in our local American Legion Post 26 and V.F.W. Post 10950, Billy stays attuned to everything ‘veteran’. Me? I pay close attention to the voice of veterans around me every where I go. Sometimes the veteran voices are low volume and spoken softly to naturally protect confidential exchange…in that case, I pick up my book and tune out the conversation respecting that everything said isn’t said for all. Otherwise, I tune in because I genuinely care about what veterans think about and how they feel and I want to learn everything I can from them. At times veteran interactions are endearing about military ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’; sometimes their conversation is light and humorous recalling boot camp or barrack jokes played on one another and then at other times, heartfelt words are expressed about a veteran’s passing or the recent diagnosis of a veteran with a life threatening illness – often times due to exposure to Agent Orange…then the whole room we’re in fills with sadness. But…regardless of subject matter, voices of veterans are important; worth listening to…and worth learning from.
It’s uncanny…the dialogue is incredibly consistent and especially the language spoken between combat veterans is remarkable…it’s a form of communication unknown to the rest of us…as it should be. Sometimes eye contact is all that’s required to convey one veteran’s message to another. And it’s true…that veteran’s ‘speak’ is often silent but the conveyance to each other is powerful and not understood by non-veterans…but that’s O.K. because veterans deserve their privacy…and their secrets.
Because the majority of us want so much to reach out and ‘help’ our veterans, we sometimes overstep our bounds assuming that we know this or that when we really don’t know squat. Our attempt to be kind…or ease the pain…or make a vet feel better sometimes unintentionally exceeds the scope of ‘help’ and there is no doubt in my mind that it has at times been a matter of good intentions gone wrong.
As the spouse, children or parents of veterans who have been engaged or exposed to combat, we fail at times to remember that P.T.S.D. is an invisible and often times lasting injury and that it should be respected just as all challenges to our veteran’s bodies. Listening…really listening to a veteran who wants to talk – on his/her own terms is probably the best help we can offer. Just being there for them, loving them, supporting them and honoring the invisible hurts as sincerely as those that are obvious matters.
None of us want to be judged and most especially by someone who hasn’t been there or done that.
We are a curious lot with inquiring minds and our thirst for knowledge for the right reasons sometimes overshadows the end result. Veterans are remarkable specimens of courage, strength and pride. Platforms or forums in which to express veteran experiences are far too limited but the growing interest and desire to help the public grasp the effects of war will someday perhaps diminish the chance of it.
I know that for me in this New Year 2016, I will continue to seek information to help me better help all of the veterans I know and love throughout Dare, Currituck and Tyrrell counties and beyond.
God bless all of our veterans…from the eldest most seasoned WWII veteran to the most recently deployed or Honorably Discharged from our military branches…very sincerely, I say…
WELCOME HOME and THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
And from the bottom of our hearts, we are grateful to you all! If we can be of any help to yourself or to a veteran you know or if we can refer you to someone who might be able to help, please contact us. My cell: (252) 202-2058.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud of our U. S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard. We love you all! Stay tuned!