Gig Line: First things first!

Published 3:02 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Newcomers to Gig Line may not realize that this weekly submission often includes an array of stories, dates-times-locations of special events, announcements and reference to the life I was fortunate enough to share with my beloved Billy Brown, an incredible man whom I was so blessed to marry and enjoy life with for close to 50 years when he passed.

Billy was a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran who inspired many wonderful things within me. He taught me true patriotism, loyalty, “brotherly and sisterly” love, strength, courage and a love for this country we all know as America, our home. He inspired this weekly column 12 years ago and no doubt the good Lord had a hand in it too.

My first goal is to remind us of our blessings and to honor the brave men and women who served in our United States Armed Forces … to never, ever forget their sacrifice and the battles they fought on the sea, in the air, in the mountains, on the deserts and in the rice paddies and jungles. Our military is our backbone, it is the biggest protector against the ill in this world; it is a living barrier of good vs evil and without them, dear Lord what would we do? To be honest with you, the news of today is extremely concerning – not from trivial hearsay but from testimonies of respectable military personnel who express grave concern that our recruitment is down … not good.

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In last week’s Easter Gig Line, I talked extensively about the meaning of Easter to me personally. In writing my testimony, I missed including a special recognition about March 29, 2024 being the National Vietnam War Veterans Day. So before I continue this week, I wish to acknowledge, thank, give praise and recognition to all who served in Southeast Asia; to those who lost their life in that war; to those who lost limbs, eyesight, suffered burns, disabilities and disfigurements, I salute each and every one of you. Sincerely, I tell you that you will forever be in my thoughts; my prayers and you will never fall off that tall pedestal you rest on in my eyes.

For those who might have thought I forgot, please understand that I could never forget what Billy and each of our Vietnam veterans endured in what he referred to as a “hell hole.” Each morning when I talk to the Lord before I start my day, I thank Him for bringing Billy home, for bringing each of the courageous troops who made it out of there home. That war changed people and not just the veterans of it. It changed those of us who loved our family members who served and died, whose bodies were never recovered, who have battled the effects of their exposure to Agent Orange and who still feel the trauma nearly every day. I respect each family member who went through the pangs of missing, worrying and praying their spouse, boy/girlfriend, parent, child, sibling and friends would come home alive. None of you are forgotten either! You sacrificed so much, too, and I (we) thank you.

This past November, for anyone who does not know, was a memorable time in Dare County and the Outer Banks. When we hosted the The Wall That Heals – the beautiful, striking and somewhat haunting three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., it positively touched thousands of lives. It was on display in Nags Head for six days. Many tears were shed, names of those inscribed on The Wall That Heals because they lost their life while serving in Vietnam brought some attendees to their knees; hands were shaken; hugs were shared between “brothers and sisters” and in the midst of it all love was evident between friends, and even strangers – a very noticeable and undeniable bond from one to the other.

I had worked on the committee to bring The Wall That Heals here in the company of the organizational team led by Patty O’Sullivan, our Dare County veteran service officer. Our group, including commissioner Wally Overman, worked tirelessly to help see it come to fruition. Each committee member shared a passion to see the project “dream” become a reality. Local and visiting Vietnam veterans who survived their service in Vietnam volunteered to assist with every aspect of its unforgettable presence here, from erecting its massive presence, guarding it, assisting those who visited the display to etch their loved one’s name and until its departure. If you were able to attend, thank you so very much on behalf of all Vietnam veterans and the devoted committee. To each one of us who have loved a Vietnam veteran, we are grateful that you took the time to honor them and what the exhibit represented and come see it for yourselves even if you had seen it or the original in D.C. before. The experience brought tears missing Billy, but it also brought me joy knowing how much the monumental undertaking would mean to him and his comrades. To those of you who served over there, you have impacted my life and Billy’s too before he transitioned into Heaven in July 2016. Thank you.

Because Patty and I have worked for years with the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council, we talk often. When I spoke with her yesterday and asked her if there was anything she would like for me to include in this writing, she asked that I remind everyone that if they were interested in the possibility of signing up for free counseling, to please contact her to determine their eligibility. What information she acquired from the Vet Center read (in part), “Services include counseling for depression, grief, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the psychological effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).” I cannot emphasize enough, please contact Patty’s office: 252-475-5604, cell: 252-473-7749 or by email: patricia.o’ as soon as possible if you are interested as she is collaborating with the Vet Center group that would offer the free counseling.

Perhaps you do not feel you need counseling and if that is so, I am glad, but I know what a difference counseling made in my Billy the last almost two years of his life before he knew he was sick. His close friend, a Vietnam veteran buddy suggested he consider looking into it. To my surprise, he did and he was happier and seemed more at peace overall as a result. His sweet, caring friend made a significant impression on Billy’s life, and I will NEVER be able to thank him enough. Billy did not talk about what his group discussed and nor did I ask, he just kept it to himself, but I could see peace in his face after came out from those classes. It meant a lot to him that he could share his thoughts, experiences, etc. without reservation, judgement or guilt and engage with fellow veterans who had similar war experiences and the feelings it generated long after. The classes were confidential, and I am so thankful that Billy took his friend’s advice. It was a healing experience for my husband that I love so much. And as close as we were, we had been married (at that point) about 46 years before he engaged in counseling classes. I thank the good Lord that Billy was open to consider it, then acted on it. Thank you again H.T.H.!

Before I close, I want to mention one more thing. In the Easter Sunday paper, I referenced prayer and faith often and at times I will do that in this column. If you do not feel as I do about religion, it is okay of course but Gig Line is, after all, an opinion column. However, while I truly respect everyone’s views on spirituality, I speak from my heart and tell it like it is … for me anyway. And when I referenced that I wish politicians would pray for each other, of course I did not expect competing candidates to pray for their opponent to win but rather to use their best judgement when faced with critical decisions and to do the right thing for all of us.

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. Pray for our nation, our military and our law enforcement especially. While I try my hardest to stay positive, I find it difficult at times with all the unnecessary challenges we face today, especially when many seem avoidable. If you wish to call/text me, cell (252) 202-2058 or email me: Thank you for reading Gig Line, God bless you and your family! I love you all. Stay tuned!