Gig Line: My country tis of thee …

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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I hope this column finds your American spirit boosted and renewed after the incredible live and televised displays of fireworks across our nation on July 4th! Those who put so much work, money and creativity into each amazing presentation are certainly due our gratitude.

As for me? I stayed home because I knew the sounds of snap-crackle-pop, boom, bang and sizzle could be heard outside from our living room and that our little Yorkie “Pepper” would be nervous not knowing what all the fuss was about if she were here by herself. I also didn’t want to miss a second of the patriotic specials that had been advertised all week with pending interviews of WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan and others who have contributed so much to the safety of our country and I eagerly anticipated the stories behind their enlistment, service history and the recap of what they had endured.

Everybody in this world has a story to tell without exception and veterans recalling in their own words their experiences, their personal witness of our history, tales of the unbreakable bonds of friendship and brotherhood is like precious gems.

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As the beautiful displays – one after another – lit up our wide TV screen, I began to reminisce about my childhood and how Daddy who proudly served and retired from our U.S. Coast Guard was as proud and “into it” as my Mom, sister and me. For most of us, fireworks bring happy recollections of picnics, laughter, parades, patriotic music, shiny little sparklers but mostly our American pride.

I am cognizant of the fact that the innocent sights, sounds and smells when the event is underway can bring reminders of terror, fear, suffering and worse to our veterans. I thought of the exuberant joys of years past celebrating in our neighborhoods, downtown Manteo, on the beach or cottage decks in Nags Head or the village of Avon and “back in the day” near the Coast Guard base in Miami and St. Pete, Florida when I was a child. It was exciting – loud – when all ages gathered to share the experience, wave our flag and hug each other.

I also reflected on a time when my sweet husband Billy and I went shopping in Virginia Beach, Virginia and stopped to eat dinner at a Red Lobster. Just minutes after ordering our meal, massive jets taking off from Norfolk International Airport roared overhead and a terrible look came over my precious husband. For a moment he was basically “frozen” in our booth. “Babe are you okay?” I asked. No answer. Again I asked and still no answer. In those few moments Billy was in a different place. The deafening roar of the massive engines transported him in time to a place of heartache. At first, he didn’t want to stay and eat the meal we had just ordered. I told him I would do whatever he wanted to do but once the thrust of the engines overhead could no longer be heard, his stare relaxed and he was okay to stay and eat his favorite – fried shrimp. It was then that I came to realize that while Billy did not experience night sweats, nightmares and other signs of PTSD, he had managed to keep hard memories tucked deep inside.

Years later when we attended a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” event in Charlotte, N.C. he again stared but this time it was different, he stared at the three helicopters on the field inside the racetrack … especially the Huey … he loved the Huey. It represented a chance to survive the “hell hole” and bring him back home. It was a symbol of hope and rescue for his brothers who were hurt or near death. The Huey represented a “saving grace.” Seeing the Army drab green colored Huey brought solace to his face, peace even. It was like he was seeing a dear, old friend.

That chopper made my Billy smile – he knew first-hand its tremendous value. Not only did it transport our troops into battle, but it also transported them out and away from horrific situations with medical evacuation missions and it served as a valuable means of attack as well … a defense. It was a lifeline and the difference for so many between life and death.

Billy contemplated leaving his seat and walking out to get close to that magnificent machine, but he could not quite bring himself to do it. While some got close enough to touch it, my hero was content to observe it from where we sat and remember what it meant to every soldier he fought beside.

Yes folks, this Fourth of July 2023 was the sixth year that he has been gone … he is in Heaven now, I am sure of it. I miss him so much and while I don’t cry as often as I have in these years since he left, he is forever on my mind, in my heart and when it comes to patriotic things. His love for our country, his devotion to his comrades, his bond and friendship with his “brothers and sisters” of our local Outer Banks V.F.W. Post 10950 and American Legion Post 26 inspires me to continue what I do: write Gig Line, serve on our Veterans Advisory Council, promote and celebrate all of our veterans and cherish the symbols of our freedom, primarily our red, white and blue American flag.

We have problems in the world and undeniably right here at home but for anyone who missed the interviews and testimonies of our veterans who honorably served and sacrificed so much to protect us, it was powerful. Their tears flowed freely as they described war, its aftermath, the loss of their friends and I wished I could have hugged each one of them.

It made me extremely proud hearing them recount what or who inspired them to serve, why they love our flag and how their military service changed their lives forever.

As honored and proud as I was to learn from them, I felt equally ashamed of those who criticize our country, our flag, the Constitution of the United States or our military. We all have opinions, and we are entitled to express them – however, when the very people who enjoy the freedoms we have, the benefits afforded us as American citizens gripe, complain, whine and bellyache over their disdain for life as we know it – SHAME, SHAME, SHAME! We are SO blessed … even the ones who squall the most and I have no patience for it … do not want to hear it and I do not want them in my space. Freedom? Liberty? We set the example, we light the way and fight for those who suffer communism and tyranny every day … as true-blue Americans, we are authentic, loyal and proud!

Next week I will write about “VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits” out of respect for the loving care givers of veterans who reside at home since the subject matter might apply to you and your family.

You are important … VETERANS MATTER! If you have a question about a potential VA claim, please contact our veteran service officer, Patty O’Sullivan. Medical issues or an illness that might be service connected? Please take the time to see what you might qualify for and contact Patty at her office: 252-475-5604, cell: 252-473-7749 or through her email: patricia.o’

If you have a comment you wish to share with me, you’re welcome to contact me via my cell/text: 252-202-2058 or my email: and if you’d like to read previous Gig Line columns, go to

In the meantime, be healthy, safe and happy. Just know how special you are (after all, there is only ONE of you). Realize if you don’t already that you were created for a reason. Look for ways to help others; find blessings in each day even if you have to dig deep and realize that our good Lord loves you beyond measure … and for that matter, I love you too! Stay tuned!