By Marsha M. Brown
Thanksgiving is still a little ways out but I’m feeling it already. I’m very thankful for a lot of things in my life and most recently last Saturday night at Manteo First Assembly. The 3rd annual ‘SALUTE to VETRANS’ event couldn’t have been nicer…honestly. Let me tell you why.
First the men, women and children of our church and members of at least three other churches came together to perform through acting, song and dance giving praise and love to our Dare County veterans and their families. If you were able to come…from the bottom of my heart I thank you. And if you were there and I failed to see you, greet you, or hug your neck, I apologize. If you weren’t able to make it…I promise that you missed a really b-i-g deal!
Just before the program got underway, one of the sweetest fellas came up to me to ask if I was ‘Ms. Gig Line’. I smiled and said, ‘Yes, I guess you could say that’. Then he told me he had wanted to put a face to a name. I said, ‘Now, aren’t you sorry you did?’ He smiled and said he just wanted to tell me how much he liked and faithfully read ‘GIG LINE’. After I thanked him, I asked if he was a veteran and he told me no but explained that he had family members who were. He didn’t know it of course but he was one of the many special personal blessings for me that night.
Seriously, the event was a blessing based on what we heard. Our church was full and even now we’re still getting emails, phone calls and personal one-on-one expressions of praise for the program itself. The beautiful gifts of talent and hard work of the folks involved won’t soon be forgotten. In addition to the obvious stage presence and activities, there was choreography, lighting, sound effects and visuals that required arrangement, timing and tedious precision; there was decorating, costuming, snack prep, cleaning afterward and a multitude of other errands, not to mention practice but…all for the good. We thank each and every one of you! Yes, I am biased but in my honest opinion it was a first class event…but that’s because our veterans deserve nothing less!
It’s especially important to thank our two favorite active duty military guys: SSG Michael D. Bird and SSG Brandon Hewett of the U. S. Army Recruiting Center, Elizabeth City, N. C. who took part in our ‘SALUTE’ for the third year in a row. We met SSG Bird and SSG Hewett when we first initiated our annual ‘SALUTE’ in 2011. As active duty military personnel, their office has performed the ‘Thirteen Folds of the Flag’ and the P.O.W. / M.I.A. ceremonies each year. Since our first introduction, though, they’ve grown close to our heart and we consider them to be more like ‘family’. They were both handsome fellas in their striking uniforms but most of all…they stood tall and proud…to be serving our country with their specific military branch of choice. Go Army! J
Starting with the 1940’s WWII era forward – songs of yesteryear were sung by very convincing substitute artists whose music took us back…to the good times and the times we missed loved ones who were deployed far from home. That night was awesome…not just because of the program. It was the faces, friendships and hugs that flowed into the sanctuary…it was the veterans who were there to embrace feeling the love, celebration and gratitude from all of us for their sacrifices over the years. It was a Vietnam veteran (Ray Johnson) who stood and recited (to music) the chilling words of George Jones’ rendition of “50,000 Names Carved in the Wall”. It took guts for Ray to do that. He like all of our Vietnam vets…has ‘been there, done that’. It was all those things and more that made it so special.
The patriotic little ‘Fish Bites’ in their glittery red, white and blue costumes were happy, having practiced for weeks at the direction of a very pregnant Elizabeth DeHart. In their sweet innocence, each little beauty was taught and inspired to do their best…for our veterans. All 10 of them proudly…and I do mean proudly…made their way down the isles onto the stage to perform enthusiastically their songs and to honor our ‘heroes’. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Why can’t everyone be as excited as these little girls who wanted to make our veterans proud supporting the defenders and protectors of our nation. They reminded me of the old expression, “And a child shall lead them…” And then there was Cindy Arendts who sung, acted and displayed through drama, the love, worry and remembrances of a soldier’s mother, sister and wife reminding of those who kept the home fires burning. Each participant made it what it was and to all those unnamed in this column, please know how grateful we are and how much we love you.
That night reminded me of answered prayers too. Numbers of veterans who had served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Dessert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan who had made it back home were with us that night…and “Molt’s” letter to his wife ‘Helen’ was as real about his faith in God while serving in Korea as you reading the paper that’s in your hand this very minute…and Becky Smith, (our Pastor Steve’s wife), who had been ill two days before the event on Saturday recovered enough to sing the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” solo and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” as one of the Andrew Sisters, play keyboard, arrange videos & music, special effects and prepare the ‘program’ for handout…and then, there was the sweet and tender portrayal of a soldier “Molt” by Rev. Jerry Cribb…and the touching rendition of “The Old Tattered Flag” was performed by Rev. Ken Mann who also emceed the event in his typical A+ form.
As my sweetie pie sang to me later…”Oh what a night…” those who took part made us smile, laugh and cry (I told you) and enjoy just being together. Pastor Steve Smith and Manteo First Assembly, we especially thank for eagerly supporting this special project for three years now celebrating the ‘best of the best’ our veterans.
The next day, I attended a really enjoyable first of its kind fundraising event (for veterans) hosted by the Fraternal Order of Eagles Club in K.D.H. where Billy and others cooked whole hog and pork butts, hot dogs and hamburgers. There was lots of delicious sides, desserts, a very talented band that played good original music and the beautiful weather was enjoyed by all. People were happy just talking and sharing veteran loyalty. Vets of all ages…strangers before the picnic…left as friends. It was nice and Vince Puma, a veteran himself and ‘Eagle’ Member, said he expects to make it an annual event!
Monday, Nov. 11th was the day…VETERAN’S DAY! Yip-pee! Billy and other American Legionnaires attended and participated in the first annual Flag Raising event at Pirates Cove Marina in Manteo; followed by the Memorial Service at the Dare County Veterans Memorial site located at the Old Dare County Courthouse in downtown Manteo and then again at the Dare County Memorial site in Kill Devil Hills on Veterans Drive where the ceremony included the American Legion Fort Raleigh Post 26, the V.F.W. Nags Head Post 10950 and the Fraternal Order of Eagles #4506. He said he heard comments that there were more people at each of the services that day than they had seen before. Things are changing – more and more veterans are attending meetings, events and bonding with each other in Dare County…”Ain’t it grand” as they say?
Tuesday, Nov. 12th Billy and I issued more Dare County Veteran I.D. Card(s) at the Admin. Bldg. bringing our new total to 209! Hip…hip…hooray! Don’t forget we’ll be there each Tuesday, through Dec. 17th from 12 Noon – 3:00 PM. If you don’t have your ‘CARD’, please come get it! We’re signing up new businesses, which I’ll update in the next GIG LINE, Sunday, November 24th edition. Also, future veteran events are in the works…and when I hear a veteran who resides outside of Dare County say he wished he lived in Dare County because we “care about our veterans” its music to my ears. And…I would get up and do a dance, but Billy said I stand in one spot and act like I’m shooting pistols off in both hands…so don’t look for me anytime soon on ‘Dancing With the Stars’!!
In the meantime though, be happy, be safe, be proud and take the time to find…then thank…a veteran…every single day! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org because we love to hear from you! There’s so much to tell you and write about…so, as usual…stay tuned!