By Marsha M. Brown
Odd…subtitle, huh? I mean it. Yesterday was golden for several reasons and if I tried my hardest, I still ‘couldn’t beat it with a stick!’
While typically my ‘sweetie pie’ Billy issues the Dare County Veteran I. D. Card(s) each Monday from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM at the Dare County Administrative Bldg. – Rm. 142 (Manteo), we hadn’t issued them on Hatteras Island itself for a while, so…we made arrangements to take the trip to Hatteras yesterday. Before 8:30 AM Billy, our grandson Ben and I left Manteo enroute to ‘the other side of the world’ at the south end of the Herbert C. Bonner (Oregon Inlet) Bridge.
Our destination to the Hatteras Community Center in Hatteras was uneventful along the way…no traffic delays…just the pure, unique beauty Hatteras Island offers…then between Salvo and Avon we got a call on my cell from a gentleman I’ve known most of my life…a good, sweet man from Manteo who because of his caring heart wanted to let us know about a veteran he thought could use some help. When I hung up I told Billy how thankful I was for him and his wife and their desire to reach out to others…for others. No doubt…faith, hope and love inspired his outreach.
In Buxton we stopped by Connors Supermarket to pick up a sub for lunch and arrived at the Community Center just before 11:00 AM where we met the nice ladies of the Hatteras Library who had opened the Center for us to use. Shortly after setting up the table and chairs…Gary Kierney a U.S.C.G. veteran, Dare County Veterans Advisory Council member and a Dare County Deputy Sheriff (who was off for the day) had come to help us also. Gary who honorably served also has a son, Noah, who at 18 years old joined the U. S. Army and actively serves today. Knowing we were coming to Hatteras to issue the ‘Card(s)’ Gary had reached out to as many veterans as he could to advise them we’d be there and his efforts paid off. Nine veterans came in during the three hours we were there but even more special than personally handing our local veterans their ‘Card’ was the opportunity to say “Thank you”, shake their hand and look into the eyes of experience, valor, dedication, sacrifice and loyalty to our great nation.
As each veteran folded in…one by one…they struck me right away. Their eyes gleamed pride…and their exchange not only to Billy and Gary but to their other fellow brothers was notable. Some had a single sheet of paper in their hand…their v-e-r-y important DD-214, then…a few carried a folder or briefcase that protected the ‘history of their lives’ as I’d call it; then one former Marine and Vietnam veteran had his camera with him and showed us a few precious pictures and some of his own beautiful original artwork…then, he sat down at our table and created a cartoon on the back of a 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper that he gave to me to keep…that drawing? I’ll cherish it forever.
You see…I knew several of the vets that came in yesterday but this one in particular I’ve known for a good while and I think he’s a really smart man. The way he tells his stories…the passion he exudes…the expressions he uses…the times he taps into humor as well as deep remembrances brings to life his portrayal of his military service. He makes you grateful for each man and woman who has served…many of which feel but cannot put into words the profound relationships of one soldier to another…the hardship…the fear…and the thankfulness to be alive and home again. His undeniable love of country drew us all in…as we intently listened he pronounced his faith in God too…it was very clear…you knew that his thankfulness for answered prayer has met the ears of many since his return from war. Then…behind him another true blue Marine and hero…carrying his very precious memories – a huge collection of military papers and documents related directly to his service…his commendations…and acknowledgments…correspondence he had acquired over the years…and pictures…lots of pictures…and what a handsome fella! All neatly and carefully catalogued, protected with plastic sheets between the pages…a history lesson on military greatness, commitment and respect to all of our service branches. After his official Dare County Veterans I. D. Card was in issued and in his hand, he started to leave…then he paused and turned around. He thanked us for “picking up the flag and carrying it”…they were meaty words from his heart…and words I’ll never forget.
Each veteran who came in yesterday touched my heart…each is memorable…each is doing what they can within their ability even now to serve our nation and each other; each had a story to tell, to enlighten those of us who haven’t personally served our country as a military man or woman; each reminded the other of how ‘honor’ is really defined.
From the gentleman who called us on the way to Hatteras to the gentleman who came for his ‘Card’ wearing proudly a T-Shirt promoting Hatteras Island veterans, I thank you all. You are what made us great…and why we should, as Americans, no matter our political agendas or preference do all we can to support you, pray for you and love you all.
Billy and I are thankful to each and every one of you every single day. Together as “one nation under God….” we will stand together as veterans and veterans family members to continue to ‘fight the good fight’ for what is right…to uphold our great country of the United States of America regardless of differences and to honor and appreciate those who sacrifice so much to protect our precious American way of life.
If we can be of some help for a veteran you know, please contact us. My cell (252) 202-2058. You have the numbers…now use them…please. In the meantime…be happy, be safe and be proud. God bless you all and those you love. Stay tuned.