Celebrating and commemorating our veterans. United States military veterans and their families.

Veterans Always and Forever – Gig Line #172


By Marsha M. Brown

If you read GIG LINE last week, you heard the story about a dedicated U. S. Navy veteran whose name is Dennis Ambruso. He is the awesome gentleman who had a dream, made a plan and saw it through realizing his hearts desire in tangible form – restoration of his very own PBR721 (river boat) formerly used to combat the evil in Vietnam.

Until last weekend I had only spoken to Dennis over the phone following an email I had sent him about the interest Billy and our grandson Ben had after seeing his PBR721 and to thank him for what he had done…preserving an instrument of history. If you remember from my last GIG LINE, Dennis had called us last Tuesday night at which time he kindly extended an invitation to take a boat ride with him which Billy and our grandson Ben eagerly embraced.

Between that call and last Sunday Ben could hardly wait. He grinned from ear to ear researching everything he could find about PBR (river boats) through the Internet; in books and magazines and every publication he could get his hands on. He talked to his Pappy about the vessel; he talked to his friend Sam about them…he could hardly wait…Ben’s anticipation about meeting Dennis and taking that special ‘guy day’ trip with his Pappy consumed him. His genuine enthusiasm reminded me of the popular holiday classic movie “A Christmas Story” about little ‘Ralphie’ (played by Peter Billingsley) who simply couldn’t wait to see if Santa had brought him his much anticipated “Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle”…remember? (our whole family loves that movie!) Anyway…Ben was so cute…he asked me if it would be O.K. if he wore his U.S. Army outfit that he had pieced together one item at a time from military surplus stores, thrift stores and private donations and I said, “Of course Ben! Mr. Dennis might get a kick out of seeing such military pride in a 12 year old!” So…come Sunday morning Ben was rearing to go…all decked out in full gear…including his olive green helmet. He was ready to meet another ‘hero’ and to rock n’ roll and before Billy could get to Wanchese to pick him up, I’ll bet he called or text’d us at least five times to make sure they would be on time to meet “Mr. Dennis”.  

Yes, I had planned to be there too…I really wanted to be and to witness their reaction to actually riding in Dennis’ river boat but sometimes guys just don’t need women around…they want to do their ‘guy thing’ and I wanted that memorable event to be just for the two of them…so, I took the opportunity to enjoy special time with my granddaughter Elizabeth – nickname ‘Bay’ before school started. However, trust me when I say…I might as well have been there because I got a minute by minute account and by the end of the day I felt as if I had been right there!

The guy’s arrival at the PELICAN marina on the outskirts of Elizabeth City was a great start. Meeting Dennis alone they felt was a reward all in itself…not to mention actually seeing and riding in his PBR721. My fella’s impression of Dennis was clear…that he was a devoted and dedicated veteran always and forever.

‘Mr. Dennis’ explained in full detail the features of his river boat to the guys; he was  a nice man they both said, who appreciated others love of military history; he was proud of his vessel and of what he had accomplished and of being able to show others what very brave and committed men used to carry out missions long ago.

A few people who are anti-gun may not see the glory in this story about ‘Mr. Dennis’ and his preservation of his PBR and some may even look at his PBR721 as a killing machine. But let me tell you my impression of it…my impression is that it was mighty…it was hard core…it was a mechanism of defense and a mechanism to save lives as much as it was to destroy them.

I’m not a proponent of destruction…but I AM a proponent of anything and everything that will protect, defend and bring home our military men and women; I AM a proponent of politicians, lawmakers, leaders and clergy when they support our fighting men and women wholeheartedly and beyond that…I thank God that He gave an abundance of courage to the soldiers, seamen and airmen, that have had the task of using weapons whenever necessary in order to protect our American troops…wherever they might be no matter what got them there. Furthermore it hurts me to hear that some people nowadays back down easily to pressure to dismantle our symbols of patriotism, love of country and respect for our military. Personally I don’t give a hoot nor a holler about a worry that a red, white and blue American flag will “offend” someone and to the folks who whine and bellyache because they are so accommodating to those who don’t wish to support our standards or our symbols…our history and our American way of life…I say this…put your big boy and big girl panties on and get a grip! We cannot afford to be passive…no matter our political preference…we cannot afford to keep letting things slide into oblivion or the abyss…as Americans we stand for justice and peace and honor and anyone who can’t deal with it…oh well! I’m sorry for you and I pray for you. I pray that you will set aside your nit picking and move on toward something positive like protecting our symbols of “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Life is too short not to do our best to embrace it, preserve it and defend it. To do otherwise is lame…lame I said.

So…its true…I didn’t make the trip to ‘Mr. Dennis’ PBR721 but I will make every effort to see him soon, hug his neck, thank him for his service to our country having served in our outstanding U. S. Navy and I will further encourage him to take on another dream be if for restoration of a helicopter…a Huey maybe? (Billy said he’s thinking about it). My hat is off to Dennis for his tenacity and his ‘go-getter’ spirit and attitude and to all veterans especially the older ones…just remember…if you’re reading this…no matter what…you’re still upright and vertical J and much like cheese and wine…the older you get…the better you become! God bless our military men and women all over our nation. Thank you all for all you have done and continue to do to keep us safe. We love you and appreciate you more than you may ever know!

If you have a question or comment please call me (252) 202-2058 or write to me at editor@giglineheroes.com Remember Dare County Administrative Bldg. (Manteo) Rm. 142 each Monday between 10:00 AM -1:00 PM for walk in access to acquire your Dare County Veteran I.D. Card, just bring your DD-214 showing ‘Honorable Discharge’ (only for our review – you do not have to leave it with us nor bring your original – a simple copy will do and also please bring your local Driver’s License). There is no charge for the ‘Card’ and once you receive it as a Dare County veteran; you will be entitled to discounts at 50 businesses or more on the Outer Banks. (Special note: Dare County offices will be closed Monday, September 7th).

Until next time…be happy…be safe and be proud of yourselves (as veterans) and be proud of people like Dennis and Billy and Ben. They love our country and if you can find a way…as a veteran or not…please show how much you love it too!

Next week’s GIG LINE will be ‘loaded for bear’ about the upcoming event on Hatteras Island that veterans Pete Groom, Frank Miller and other island vets are working on together through the Hatteras Island Veterans Support Group. I will include a personal message from Pete’s lips to your ears too, so don’t miss it! I’ll also talk about the very special September 11th event planned for in Nags Head (on 9/11) and a host of other matters of great importance to be held in our veterans honor! Until then, God bless you & God bless our country so by all means stay tuned! 

Contact the Editor

Marsha M. Brown has been writing a weekly Gig Line since 2012.  Marsha is the widow of Vietnam War, U.S. Army, veteran Billy Brown of Manteo, NC.  She was instrumental in establishing the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council and maintains an active role in the veteran community. You can reach Marsha with questions or suggestions at editor@giglineheroes.com.  Have a story to tell or a veteran to feature? She would love to hear from you!

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