By Marsha M. Brown
As I have mentioned several times, I like to watch Christmas movies this time of year. Despite the trauma and drama our nation has been dealing with for close to a year now, it helps to take in nice family based movies with beautiful sets and scenes of snow, family gatherings and neighbors helping neighbors…even with very similar story lines about writers, struggling farms, countryside inns and huge corporations seeking to seize properties owned by small family businesses to build skyscrapers or vacation resorts with their primary goal to make money…money, and more money! At the end of the movie the good guy wins, and miracles of unexpected help arrive just in time; family members who haven’t spoken in years are reunited, acknowledgement of a parent who has been M.I.A. for most of child’s life is healed; mistakes, missteps and blunders are forgiven. Rarely are the movies based on fact or reality but for the span of time, we are reminded that we are all vulnerable to misunderstandings…wrong decisions or honest mistakes; we are emersed in happy days, Christmas trees decorated to the nines and folks who come together to do good for others.
But every now and then exceptional story lines are about veterans, soldiers who have just come home from war; their P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); their readjustment to life as a civilian and the challenges they face readjusting to life as they left it. Those movies about the bond of friendship and love between a military brother/sister – that comradery is special to me knowing how much my Billy loved every veteran he became close to in Vietnam and especially in the last few years of his life. Our local Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950 was especially meaningful to Billy – he knew his fellow members understood having been there or in other wars or conflicts…that they had often times relived the images of sight, sound and smells – the echoed images of war themselves and that as much as I would have done anything I could to help and support my sweet husband…I had not been through what he and his V.F.W. buddies had; I was inept…I was incapable to thoroughly embrace the trauma this Baptist Preacher’s son and so many others had endured.
Sometimes in GIG LINE, you read me talk about the V.F.W. and encourage membership both for the veterans who are eligible to join but also for both spouses of veterans who can also join as V.F.W. Auxiliary Members. But even if a veteran chooses not to become a member of the V.F.W. or our American Legion Post 26 (another devoted group of veterans & Auxiliary) it is always important that we take a mental inventory of vets we know, especially during the holidays. Do they have family here locally? Do they socialize much? at church, with the groups I mentioned, or the OBX Marine Corps League #1264? Or even as a Fraternal Order of Eagles member? Are their daily needs met or exceeded? Hopefully, they have ample supplies of food, warmth, medicine, and everyday provisions that we all need to survive. Do the vets you know have the mobility and/or the option to drive their own vehicle or is their transportation provided?
Sometimes we unintentionally take for granted that a veteran neighbor, co-worker, or friend of a friend’s needs are met…but are they always? Think about it for a minute. Are any of the veterans you know or in your neighborhood only visited regularly by Dare County Home Health or Hospice? If their spouse is living and at the residence…is she or he physically able to assist their husband or wife? Of all the vets I have personally come to know over the last nine years, I have found that many of them are immensely proud men and women. Many have never even once reached out to the V.A. either because they were (honestly) stubborn,(like my Billy)…they just didn’t want to recall or rehash painful memories or they were afraid of rejection if they did seek disability compensation or entitlements. Believe me…I get it. So…I guess what I am saying is that we should inventory or canvas a list of vets we know who served and reach out to them…by calling them, asking to visit outside on the porch or even by email…just to let them know we care and that we want to help their Christmas be the best it can be…even and especially during these trying times. We should not wait for them to ask us for help…because some never will. If we do ask them if they need anything and they say no, we should respect that and honor their response…but…we should at least try.
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Back in the 90’s and a few weeks before Christmas Billy and I knew of a couple who had no Christmas tree or festive influence in our living room. They were not opposed to celebrating the season but because the husband had been ill and hospitalized for a time, they had simply been unable to do their usual decorating. And because Billy and I always planned gifts for our children first, we decided our ‘together’ gift would include purchasing a real tree and buying all the ornaments, glitter and glitz to dress it up to surprise the couple…and that’s what we set out to do. Funds were short but it was a happy big deal to us to spread some joy. Initially it was to be a gift from us to them, but it turned out to be a gift to all of us instead.
We went to a place that sold real trees in Nags Head and looked through the lot for the prettiest most reasonably priced tree we could afford. Once we selected one and went to pay for it, the vendor said we the most excited customers he had had all day, so I explained we were getting it for someone who had been sick and didn’t have one yet never expecting his response. He said, “You know what? How about if I contribute to your gift and not charge you for the tree?” Billy and I thanked him sincerely several times and we knew without a doubt that was a God bless moment…like so many are.
We left there as happy as could be knowing that unexpectedly we now had more money to buy more ornaments and tree trimmings, so to the store we went where we found really pretty discounted lights, ornaments, hooks, garland, a topper and a stand…everything we needed. That evening we drove to their house to deliver it…I promise, you would have thought we had brought a chunk of gold…they were so happy! Tears rose up in both of their eyes and it filled our hearts with such joy…God had laid it on our hearts to let that gesture be our Christmas present to each other…but in turn we were gifted as much as the couple. Truthfully, it was a memorable Christmases I will never forget. God knew what would lift their spirits…He knew our needs financially…He knew the goodness of the ‘tree man’ and we were all blessed. And funny thing…even though I thought our friend might have been a vet…I really did not know for sure that he was until just last week – so…thank you Lord! Like I always tell Him in my prayers…” God, you are something else!” So many of us have stories like that…of acting on the needs we see in others and realizing the blessings we have received consequently that we never anticipated.
Yes…I do enjoy news and movies about veterans returning home and reuniting with family members during the holidays…I just wish that reference to what Christmas is really all about was way more pronounced than it is; that ‘the reason for the season’ is about His miraculous conception and His precious birth…maybe sone folks think it’s ‘politically incorrect’ or offensive…but, how could they? Or anyone?
We still have weeks to set a plan in place, even with the upswing of COVID-19, social distancing and masks…a Christmas card with a nice note of appreciation to a veteran for his/her service is basically germ free (or we could even wear gloves to prep, mail or hand deliver it) – could significantly touch someone’s life and prove to them that their service really wasn’t forgotten. While the list of veterans in Dare County who have served is not available to the public, just ask people you do busines with, your Pastor, your kids or grandkids too who might know of their friends parents and grandparents who have served.
Or…we can also contact a dear sweet patriot Pam Buscemi, President of the Outer Banks Blue Star Mothers of America chapter…(they do outstanding work for our deployed troops and more) to see what is most needed…perhaps a monetary donation toward the boxes of goodies they send out would be of great help. You can reach her by calling: (252) 473-1898 or through her email: [email protected] – your act of kindness will go a long way, so thank you in advance!
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. You ALL are special and I love each one of you! Call me: (252) 202-2058 or write to me: [email protected] or contact Patty O‘Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer: (252) 475-5604 or email: [email protected] if you have a question about filing a claim, obtaining a duplicate DD-214 or any service related question. Patty is a super nice lady who has a heart for all veterans. God bless you and your family and by all means please stay tuned!