Gig Line: You matter more than you realize
Published 12:33 pm Monday, August 7, 2023
Gig Line was initially written as a one-time story about the homecoming of the man I was honored to marry and share life with for close to 50 years. It was a tribute to him and to publicly acknowledge his service and sacrifice in the U.S. Army, as a sergeant and a Vietnam veteran during the TET Offensive. He was the one true love in my life. His name was Billy.
Those of you who subscribe to The Coastland Times and who read Gig Line have heard me say many times before that Billy is the inspiration for my love of country, our beautiful flag, our patriotism and respect and appreciation for our armed forces.
The circumstance of Billy and I coming together as a couple was not only very unexpected, but a “God thing” for sure which I’ll elaborate on further in my book currently being written. However, at this time I wish to say that as interest grew in the writings of Gig Line, my desire to serve our veterans grew exponentially. Just having the privilege of meeting so many veterans over the last 10-plus years; getting to know them and their spouses personally; learning their stories and knowing they were Billy’s “brother or sister” blessed my life.
Through the last 10-plus years, what I have learned about veterans has deeply touched my life. What exactly have I learned along the way? For starters that many who served during the Vietnam War era and subject to being deployed at any point in time but weren’t feel guilty about that and their expressed admiration for those who were sent to Vietnam are always in the very highest of regard. I’ve heard veterans talk about their decision to delay or perhaps never wear a hat, cap or T-shirt depicting their Vietnam veteran service and after all they had gone through upon returning home – who could blame them? They managed to come back home, but returning to what should have been a warm “WELCOME HOME” for so many who had seen death, destruction and devastation so much was a big, fat, heartbreaking letdown and regardless how many years have passed since the Vietnam War ended, many still don’t claim they even served over there at all. It goes without saying that if anyone ever deserved a warm, loving embrace upon their homecoming, they did. And it concerns me that many Vietnam veterans who came home have never investigated what medical benefits they might be eligible for having been exposed to dioxin – better known as Agent Orange. Even Billy, through all those years, didn’t want to talk to the V.A. about anything, he just wanted to be left alone.
As a wife – and now widow – of a man I will love through eternity, I am blessed to have witnessed what the love of one brother to another can do to help influence positivity in a combat veteran’s life. Standing by a friend, encouraging him (or her) to consider PTSD counseling (if it is determined to be warranted) helped my Billy to release the anguish deep down inside. Billy kept it in check and under control, which meant it seldom surfaced to any of us, but because a “brother” who said to him one day … “Billy, I think you might need to talk to somebody,” I can attest to the fact directed Billy to a road to inner peace. From that point forward, it seemed like a burden had been lifted. Thank our Lord that his “brother”/friend took the time to suggest he consider counseling. I thank God that T.H. cared enough about Billy to encourage him to seek a professional to talk to … Thank you dear, sweet Jesus that the last few years of Billy’s life, he could join in group discussions with other combat veterans who had been through much of what he had; in an office where he could talk privately and just “get it out” and only in the midst exclusively of others who understood exactly how he felt.
Because of a fellow Vietnam veteran “brother” T.H., I saw frequent smiles on Billy’s face. Honestly his smiles widened and without saying a word – he seemed to radiate the essence that he was “free” … finally free!
Why am I sharing this personal testimony with you? Because YOU matter. The Wall That Heals is coming this November to the Outer Banks and it is my hope that every Vietnam veteran and other combat veterans, too, who has ever suffered the pangs of war can visit it. Even for me, it will be emotional – it will conjure beautiful heartfelt memories of what Billy taught me. The Wall That Heals will be a symbol of what tremendous loss our country suffered, whether we were cognizant at the time or oblivious, whether we protested and shouted horrible comments and criticisms at our troops who came home or stood by their side, this event will monumental. The reputation of The Wall That Heals is that of a healing effect; for those who stand before it, hopefully it will help us to find a peace, a burden lifted, a visit with the memories of friends who are inscribed on The Wall That Heals. Hopefully we will all consume its majesty and visit it as often as we can while it is here.
About a month or so ago, I wrote about a local waterman, a crabber from Colington (Kill Devil Hills) who resides in Southern Shores. He had written a book about his experiences as a U.S. Army Special Forces ranger and team leader in Vietnam – Charlie R. “Robbie” Beasley Jr. He had just published his book hoping that those who read it would come to better understand the perplexities, challenges, heartache and fear the most courageous in our military experienced in Southeast Asia. Being a first-time author, I’m personally so proud of him and thankful he followed through with his desire to connect the reader to the facts, the incredible circumstances and to the reality of it all.
UPDATE: Since Robbie’s book came out, some of the people who bought one have requested as many as 10, 20 and even 30 additional copies to distribute as gifts to family and friends and/or to sell in their businesses both locally and out of state. His book “Vietnam War: Lesson of a Lifetime” is a means to bridge a better understanding as to what Robbie and his company personally experienced. He, like so many Vietnam veterans, loves this country with every cell of his being and while some governmental decisions may have felt questionable at the time, they were carried out as expected even at the price of personal heartache.
If you are interested in learning from the prospective of a born and raised local Outer Banker, consider buying a copy of his book, which is being offered for sale at Downtown Books in downtown Manteo, O’Neal’s Seafood in Wanchese and Billy’s Seafood in Colington. My opinion? Read Robbie’s book about the Vietnam War prior to this November when The Wall That Heals comes to Dare County/Nags Head, learn the sacrifices, realize and appreciate the immeasurable value of the 58,000-plus names of our men and women inscribed on the 375’ three-quarter scale replica of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Realize that we have come a long, long way from where we were back in the 60s and early 70s, understand that many veterans wish they had been there fighting beside their comrades and that they look up to those who did serve “boots on ground” during one of the most heart-wrenching periods in our country’s history. Veterans and others have commented to me so many times how much they respect and appreciate our Vietnam veterans. They are men and women who had guts, courage beyond measure and who put their best foot forward to protect each other. If you are a local, out of town property owner or a visitor to the Outer Banks and you get a chance to visit The Wall That Heals between November 16, 2023 and November 19, 2023, be aware and respectful of what you will witness onsite. Once all the panels are in place, The Wall That Heals will remain open 24 hours per day.
There is no doubt you will see an obviously undeniable brotherhood; a love between the precious souls that fought their way back home and who grieve for their brothers and sisters who didn’t; and very likely tears from the eyes of many who witness in person the grandeur of this spectacular, moving event. Please plan to come and show the Vietnam veterans who attend themselves the respect and love they deserve. Teach your children and grandchildren the importance, sensitivity and reverence this exhibit will inspire within you.
I love all our veterans with all my heart and while my Billy is no longer here with us, I hope the Lord will tell him in Heaven what we’ll be doing here on earth to honor him and every one of his “brothers and sisters.”
If you are a Vietnam veteran, thank you. If you have medical issues or conditions that could be a result of your exposure to Agent Orange, (there are 15 medical illnesses on the V.A. presumptive list), please contact our Dare County veterans service officer, Patty O’Sullivan. She can be reached at her office: (252) 475-5604; cell: (252) 473-7749 or by email: patricia.o’email@example.com
For detailed information about The Wall That Heals, which will arrive here on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, with set up taking place the following day on Wednesday and the official opening ceremony on Thursday, November 16, 2023 at 10 a.m., go to darenc.gov/Wall. Be sure to check out the volunteer block if you wish to help and the “In Memory” program option if your loved one served in Vietnam, then came home to the U.S. and later passed away relative to Agent Orange exposure or not. All Vietnam veterans matter and so do their loved ones who love and miss them every day. Patty can help you with that option to represent your relative if you would like to participate or if you need her assistance.
Until next time, thank you all. Be healthy, safe and happy. If you need to talk to somebody, please consider it … it made a difference in my Billy. Thank God for the “brother” who loved him enough to encourage him … he seriously changed Billy’s life which I will elaborate on in my book and he (T.H.) will forever be an awesome hero I will look up to. To all our veterans, thank you from the bottom of my heart for having served our great nation and our military, you are so worthy of salute.
If you’d like to contact me, my cell number is 252-202-2058, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and for previous Gig Line columns, please go to giglineheroes.com. God bless you and your whole family. Love is precious, it is a gift … freely give it to others who will cherish it. And please bathe our nation and its troubles in prayer. Stay tuned!