Gig Line: The Good Lord, Billy and Susan

Published 1:55 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

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It was in the fall of the year 2011 and in the planning stages of a program to take place at Manteo First Assembly to celebrate our veterans. A servicemember from each military branch was set up to speak to the audience as well as officials within the V.A. system about the value of our veterans to our nation and our world.

Decorated dress uniforms were a part of it and the stage behind the podium was a half-circle lineup of chairs seated by people who were the voice of our heroes, experienced and well versed in the business of veteran benefits and opportunities afforded those who wished to consider serving our country as a career.

During the very well attended program, the “13 Folds of the Flag” (Old Glory) was performed, reciting the process in its typical respectful and dignified manner, and each attendee listened intently to every word as if it was their first time hearing it.

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In essence, I ask that each of you research the full description (no matter how many times you may have heard it before) describing the meaning behind each fold. It can be easily accessed on the website and other places as well. According to the description on that I read again (because I cherish the 13 descriptions describing honor, sacrifice and faith that reminds Americans – especially those who truly care about our foundation – that the tribute is clear … loyalty and devotion to and in defense of our nation.

It is such a beautiful testament to the tradition that we have held so dear until all the “woke” nonsense sucked so many individuals in … ones who seem frail and seemingly weak and wobbly in their own “constitution” in my opinion. The “13 Folds …” overall message is clear in that it encompasses our “… rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.” Or should I say that we used to … because rights that we had readily available have somehow faded as if a high voltage light was replaced with a dim, low wattage bulb and so, so sad.

Moving forward, following the memorable program that my husband and I had initiated, I came to realize that the Agent Orange screening for Vietnam veterans my husband knew nothing about. It intrigued me that our government had no problem contacting men for the Draft but even with all the increased availability of internet and media sources, why had veterans not heard about or encouraged to seek scheduling an evaluation to determine if they might have a case for a V.A. disability claim already? Hence, I was moved to write a story about Billy’s initial homecoming back to Manteo after his honorable discharge from his service with our U.S. Army and as a Vietnam veteran?

After I wrote my story about Billy’s return from combat in Vietnam, I called the Times Office and talked to someone he respected a lot … Susan Meekins Simpson about submitting it to be published in The Coastland Times newspaper. He had worked for her dad, Francis Meekins, years before while attending Manteo High School and had a genuine respect for the entire Meekins family.

I explained to Susan that I felt inspired to write about his homecoming because the good Lord had put it in my heart to do so. She suggested I send it in to her to review, which I did, and the rest is history. She liked it and from that initial story back in 2012, it spawned an awakening in me and others to “keep on keeping on.” What am I getting at specifically? It was the good Lord who inspired me to write about Billy and his service to our nation; it was Billy himself who taught me what “love of country,” patriotism and utter respect really meant, but it was Susan … Susan Taylor Meekins Simpson that furthered God’s inspiration through Billy to me to acknowledge the Vietnam War veteran’s life after his/her service in a place he referred to as “Hell.”

Susan is the reason my words were assembled on paper becoming a weekly column 10-plus years ago that helped to create more consciousness, better communication between all of us, respect for, care of and interest in our Vietnam veterans and all servicemembers of our U.S. military over this past 10-year history.

It was Susan … a typically quiet, never loud or boisterous, intelligent woman who carried on the legacy of the Meekins family that helped bring to light the need for veteran outreach in Dare County … it was Susan who made the difference for and to all of us.

I loved her … I loved that she cared about our vets … that she liked my writings and that she was willing to print for all the world to see my love and admiration for my husband, Billy. Only on few and far between occasions did she ever suggest a minor change in my compositions. She made Billy proud … she made his “brothers and sisters” proud and she positively gave me encouragement to continue the outreach Gig Line provided to further connect our resident and visiting veterans and their families to the V.A. which had so often had been rebuked by Vietnam veterans especially.

It was only just after Christmas that I came to realize this superstar smart lady had just passed away having fought tremendous battles with cancer over recent years.

Whenever I would see her at the Food-A-Rama or somewhere publicly and I’d ask how she was, she’d simply say, “fine” and smile … little did I know with her being such a private person, her plight and what a soldier she was herself.

I will always love Susan and her memory and every accomplishment our Dare County Veterans Advisory Council makes. I will remember having served on the council as secretary for 11 years that it was her interest, her appreciation for and her being inspired to honor our veterans that we are the strong veteran community advocate we are today.

I salute her … I respect her and her entire family for all the good she, her parents, her grandparents, her siblings, her daughters, and everyone else who worked long hours with her to get the paper out on time have accomplished for every one of us in Dare County and far beyond. Thank you, Susan, a friend I am proud to have known and look up to.

For those of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one, please consider attending the Grief Share Ministry – a 13-week (one day a week, every Wednesday) from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in Classroom B starting Wednesday, January 10, 2024 through April 3, 2024 at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, located at 300 Ananias Dare Street in Manteo (downtown).

While I have discussed the value of this class several times in this column, I have attended some but not all the consecutive 13 weeks classes, however, I know this to be true … it is WONDERFUL and SUPPORTIVE and HELPFUL beyond words!

Peggy Snead is the organizer of the program and she’s fantastic. There is NO charge for the class and the only expense is $15 for a workbook that you’re not required to purchase but will love and refer to often if you get one. Believe me when I say, it will help you in your grief and you know what? A dear friend and grieving widow who lost her husband only months ago commented that the program might be helpful for anyone who would like to get a handle on how to better cope with the loss of a loved one that hasn’t happened yet … what a considerate idea! Men and women have found benefit in attending this worldwide ministry and everyone is welcome regardless of church affiliation, or non-affiliation. For more information, please contact Jo Hardy, church administrator, at 252-473-2089, ext. #21 to sign up or request your workbook if you wish prior to the class starting.

Until next time, God bless you all. Be healthy, safe and happy in these challenging times. Know that you were created for a purpose, and you matter … more than you know. Thank you for reading Gig Line and feel free to call or text me on my cell: 252-202-2058 or write to me through If you are a veteran and need some advice regarding exposure to Agent Orange or other health related service connected issues, need a duplicate DD-214 or have other questions regarding a potential V.A. disability claim, please contact our Dare County veteran service officer Patty O’Sullivan at her office: 252-475-5604, on her cell: 252-473-7749 or by email: patricia.o’

Remember that whether I know you or not … we’re connected … how do I know that? Because I love you, that’s why! Stay tuned!