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Gig Line: For the love of a brother

This past week, I received a memorable phone call from a gentleman I had heard from once before. He reads Gig Line regularly, which I am always pleased to hear, but the purpose of his call was to tell me he especially appreciated my columns that reference Vietnam veterans, his biological brother having been one.

From the onset of his call, it became abundantly clear that he loves his brother very much and that he is proud of him. It touched my heart that he cared so much about what his brother had endured, first the war itself, then the trauma of coming home to a less than favorable reception. His “share” was not about himself, rather about someone he loved who had gone through the same heartache as my sweet husband Billy that I write about often. He did not share a lot of his brother’s experiences, but just hearing he had served in Vietnam was enough. Plain and simple: his brother is extremely special to him, he is proud of him and even though I do not know their height difference, I know without a doubt that the caller looks up to his brother.

Most Vietnam veterans I have come to know personally have experienced so much of the same and any of us who haven’t “been there, done that” cannot fully grasp or appreciate all they went through or the ache inside their heart no matter the number of books we read or movies we watch.

Over the years, I have come to know veterans who were “boots on ground” over there who never want to talk about it; and do not want anyone asking them questions about it and then, occasionally, I have met those who rarely talk about anything but Vietnam. Most of all I could hear in my caller’s voice the love and pride he felt for his brother and how he regretted the heartache he knew his brother had endured.

We had a nice conversation, both understanding a little of the anguish of what two people we loved independently had gone through. It seemed both of us felt somewhat anointed as Vietnam veteran family members, but no matter what, we are merely bystanders and I think it’s fair to say that none of us are equipped to fully understand or competently interpret the real deal and as much as so many Vietnam veterans are the same, they are different, but all so incredibly special. They are tough, they are all heroes to me (and the gentleman caller).

Our conversation was lengthy, but I could have talked longer and while we have never met, I feel a kinship to every Vietnam veteran’s spouse, parent, child, sibling or friend. So his call is one I will especially hold dear.

In our small home we have quite a few books, movies and music CDs that tell the stories of Vietnam. One of the books is huge and loaded with black and white photos. I have wanted to sit down several times and read it cover-to-cover, but I know what will happen when I do: My eyes will search the pages, stare at every picture and strain to see if anyone looks familiar. I will look for my Billy and then, I will cry, really cry.

For those who served in a war anywhere, I think of you, I am grateful to you, I feel sad that you had to go anywhere so far from home not knowing if you would ever come back and embrace your precious loved ones again, but Vietnam soldiers, airmen, seamen and Marines (thinking of you Lee) I think of you with every turn of my head in our little home.

When I look at or hold our Bible, I think of how much my Billy depended on its Word, on his upbringing in the home of his Baptist Pastor father who spoke love, forgiveness every Sunday and Wednesday night but who also had never gone through what his son had; I know as a  Christian man, Billy knew the plan of salvation and the deep abiding love God had for him before, during and after Vietnam. I also know Billy’s heartache was sometimes so private to him that he just kept it deep inside and when he laughed about my comical cooking experiences (unfortunately there are many) or my pitiful singing or my attempt to pronounce a difficult word. I was happy because joy filled his sweet face. He, like so many, were delegated to do things that were far and beyond that he had no choice but to do and that it was either his men (or him) rather than “them,” which made the choice crystal clear. When I look at the big American bald eagle framed stained glass that hangs in our living room window, I think of Billy and all our veterans and how proud he was of that symbol. Freedom, strength, courage and American guts . . . they all had guts. Billy loved the eagle, the only tattoo he had was that of an eagle and in his 2002 Toyota Tundra, a little stuffed American bald eagle someone had given him rode with him everywhere.

At the close of the gentleman caller’s conversation, I asked him if he ever got the chance when he was in his brother’s company to please call me so that I could speak to his brother and thank him for his service and tell him that I loved him. I would like to tell him that I believe he and my husband Billy would have been great friends had they ever met before Billy moved to Heaven and I hope someday I will get a chance to do that. And when COVID-19 is behind us, maybe I’ll get a chance to hug him, too.

In closing, the columns I write may seem a bit redundant and if they do, I apologize for that, but I will never apologize for bringing to the forefront the need for all of us to honor, celebrate, cherish and respect all our service men and women for all they have endured.

I have stories and accounts of things to come in future columns that I hope will matter to all of you and while I typically write or announce the veteran inspired schedule of events in Gig Line, most, if not all, have been canceled over the past year due to this blasted pandemic. As Secretary of the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council, I am proud that the council participates in county wide events displaying a booth, handout materials for veterans and their families and an opportunity to meet Patty O’Sullivan, our Veteran Service Officer (V.S.O.), which we have all missed doing since early 2020. At this juncture, we have been notified of the following event cancellations for 2021 thus far: Mike Kelly’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March); the OBX Chowder Banks Fest (April); and the OBX Shred Fest (May); Dare Day (June) and the OBX Seafood Festival (October) are pending confirmation at this time still due to COVID-19. Once I can ascertain final decisions as to their definite schedule (or not) as the times draw nigh, I will keep you posted through Gig Line.

To schedule an appointment to discuss a potential V.A. claim or other V.A. related help, please contact Dare County Veteran Service Officer Patty O’Sullivan: (252) 475-5604 and leave a detailed voice mail or email her at dcvac@darenc.com.

Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud; as Americans we have endured a lot throughout our history. We have come through excruciating times because we have hung in there together. Remember, “United we stand, divided we fall.” I pray we don’t forget the past but remember it to become better for each other in the future. If you have a comment you would like to share with me, good bad or indifferent, you can call my cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me: giglineheroes@aol.com God bless and know that I love you all. Stay tuned.

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