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Gig Line: Tie a yellow ribbon

First things first: you never know when you write a column, a story or a personal experience what impact it might have on someone else, but sometimes the least of what we say can make a real difference.

When I sit down to write Gig Line, I ask the Lord to help me compose a column that matters, a collection of thoughts and feelings that will touch someone, make the reader smile, re-evaluate their blessings, love not only others more deeply but themselves as well.

Over the seven years I have written this column, I have been blessed beyond words. What started as a one-time submission to The Coastland Times newspaper as a tribute to my husband and how as a Vietnam veteran, he opened my eyes to real life and the true meaning of sacrifice, love of country, thankfulness to live in the most beautiful nation in the world and how he influenced my immature naïve outlook. He inspired me not to just look at our flag but to r-e-a-l-l-y look at our flag and to consider it as the mighty symbol of our freedom that it is. Within just a few sentences, and a few tears that rolled down his cheek (when he thought I wasn’t looking) . . . turned someone who did not have a real clue into a devoted, passionate veteran advocate.

Though I loved him so much at 17 years old when we married, I fell madly in love with him all over again and every day after that until he drew in his last breath. Billy’s love of country, his “brothers and sisters,” our incredible heritage in the land so many around the world have looked up to, that so many had died to preserve, maintain and to honor affected me in a profound way . . . back then it was a disgrace for anyone to burn our flag unless as a proper retirement. We all thought that respect would last forever . . . didn’t we?

Many of our veterans had gone through so much only to come back to the place they loved – home – and instead of being embraced and appreciated for all they had endured, many of them were made to feel like something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe. It hurt me to know that anyone had greeted our veterans that way, that they had spit on and called names that echoed in their head years after.

Billy was a strong man – he was tough, he handled the weight of his memories extremely well for all the years we were together – 48 years and 1 week to be exact. And the day he passed on to his eternal life with our Lord, my life changed forever. Sixteen days from my writing this Gig Line, it will mark the fourth year he went away for good. And while a friend of mine who recently lost her husband said, it never gets better with time, only more bearable, her words rang true. On July 12th, I will reflect on the bedside hand holding and last goodbyes with Billy with our children close at his side. I will remember vividly, as if it was yesterday, how many times I told him I loved him and the last words I spoke close to his ear that day – “It’s okay babe . . . it’s okay to go . . . I’ll see you again someday . . .I love you so much.” His breathing had become more labored and in his transition from this life to his journey to Heaven. I hoped he heard me that last time.

I know if he were here during this COVID pandemic, he would insist on getting the groceries, paying the bills, running necessary errands to keep me safe at home. He would have risked everything to protect me. Billy treated me like I was the finest treasure. Oh Lord, how I miss him every waking hour.

My uncle was a veteran of the Korean War and he never got over it. He served honorably with the U. S. Marine Corps and he was immensely proud of his service but when he came home, he was never the same. There was no special recognition of P.T.S.D. back in the day as we know it, and my sweet Uncle Bill suffered in silence; a very handsome man who loved to sing . . . until his songs grew silent.

June is PTSD Awareness Month and a time we should consider what all our veterans in war time have been through and everyday civilians, too, who have experienced traumatic events in their lives. Many folks find it difficult to put the heartaches behind them; the good thing is that significant measures have evolved over the years to help and support seemingly neverending heartaches . . . but there is hope and help if folks will only reach out and grasp what is available. If you are or know a veteran who could benefit from talking to someone, please contact Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer 252-475-5604 or write to her at dcvac@darenc.com and she will give you a referral source of help and support that could make all the difference in your life. If you aren’t a veteran and would just like to talk to somebody, please contact a pastor, a doctor or a friend – but please don’t keep it all inside. You know the old saying: “There’s more room out than in!”

My precious husband attended PTSD classes the last two years of his life and it was a blessing to see his outlook just sharing with others his experiences and hearing theirs. It was a good thing, a positive thing. He seemed more at peace and he really looked forward to the classes with his “brothers and sisters” and while I was never present, the benefit to Billy was evident.

You wonderful people, many veterans, veteran’s family members and folks that just read Gig Line because they want to, I thank you! Harry, you are a gem, you read about the masks I mentioned needing to acquire in case the veterans I meet with didn’t have one and you sent a check to pay for 30 of them. Mr. Lee B., you reached out to me to share that you identified with my loss having lost your precious “petite Greek goddess.” Charlie and Sally, your notes and cards . . . well, they are jewels. And many of you that have called me or emailed me and even snail mailed me, your endearing thoughts inspire me further and I love you all. Kind words and thoughtful gestures generate a love for people and I am in your debt.

Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud folks. Our country is facing incredible challenges in this day and time, but do not let the negative stop you from believing in and for our United States of America. And as bluntly as I can say it, do not be a sucker. Evaluate what and why things matter and stick to your principals for God and country. If you’d like to call me: 252-202-2058 or email me at giglineheroes@aol.com. Stay tuned.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

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