Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

On Veterans Day

*This post was published in November of 2010 here on the Blind Pig & the Acorn. Pap has enjoyed a long stretch of good health since I wrote the post below 3 years ago-and we are very thankful!


Veterans day oteen nc


I’m not sure if it’s cause Pap was a Marine-or cause he is patriotic-but he taught my brothers and me to make a big deal out of Veterans. Without our Military Veterans, past and present, where would America be? Would we even be free?

Those of you who have been Blind Pig readers since the beginning know Veterans Day around the Blind Pig house usually revolves around school programs. While there is a program coming up, this year my Veterans Day has taken on a note of clarity.

You see-I’ve spent the last 2 days at the VA Hospital with Pap. Whether you’re going for a doctor’s appointment in the outpatient area or visiting the hospital floors-going to a large VA Hospital is always a humbling experience.

By far the majority of patients at the Oteen VA are elderly men. There are some women sprinkled in-and some younger vets too-but mostly it’s old men. I’m always struck by their voices: some grown shaky with age; some so strong and vibrant it’s easy to visualize them in their soldier boy uniforms standing at attention. It’s funny how the different branches of service seek each other out and eerie how they seem to know if their neighbor in the waiting room was a leather neck, ground pounder, or fly boy.

Over the years, due to Pap’s health, I’ve been at the VA in Oteen for extended periods of time-like the last 2 days. As I sit in the waiting rooms I listen to snatches of conversation: wives worrying if their husband will pull through; daughters and sons hoping their father improves cause Mother needs to go home and rest before she ends up in the hospital too. Long time buddies sitting nervously to the side-as I look at the worry written on the buddy’s face it always makes me wonder why the Vet doesn’t have family members to bring him? Maybe he does, maybe he prefers the comfort of a friend who understands or maybe he’s outlived all his family.

Perhaps the camaraderie between the Vets is the most touching. One asking the other where they were stationed and what year they served. The answers always bring along talk of rations, of memorable Sergeants, of trips to distant lands. Often the good folks who work at the VA join in the conversation as many of them are Vets who are still serving-taking care of those they used to stand in the chow line beside.

Jerry M. Wilson USMC


After a visit to the VA there are always folks who stand out in my mind over the days and weeks that follow. This time there’ll be the gentleman who was being discharged at the same time Pap was last night. He was from Franklin, so we all joked about how we were going in the same direction once we left Asheville. There was the patient in the bed across the way who looked so frail and weak I’ll wonder how long he makes it-but know his wife and daughter will be there to comfort him no matter what. There’s the young tattooed janitor who entertained me and Pap with his out going personality and obvious gift for gab. He was in awe of Pap just because he was a Marine. He told us he’d never get over having his childhood dreams of wearing Marine dress blues crushed by type 2 diabetes.

One Vet stands out in my mind from a few years ago. He was a tall gangly old man. He could barely walk and his daughter helped him shuffle along with his walker. Once he got seated in the chair by Pap they began to compare stories of their service. The old man told Pap he was at Normandy. He told Pap all of his 4 siblings had served too-even his 2 sisters had been nurses. He said they all came back-except both the sisters’ husbands. What gifts of service he and his family gave; but what sticks out in my mind till this day is the way he talked to Pap about it. He talked like it was just yesterday or last week; like he and his siblings were all still young; like they were just recently home after having marched off to war for the good of me.

The thoughts I’ve shared above are similar to what I experience each time I take Pap to the VA. During this visit as I looked and listened to the old Vets my mind begin to think of the brave soldiers who are serving now.

I kept looking at the old Veterans and thinking they made it. They came back home-and the loved ones who hover around them in hopes that their pain will be lessened are evidence that most of them went on to have a good life. I guess what I’m trying to say is my wish for all those who are serving now-is that they come home. I hope they live long lives surrounded by family and friends who love them. I hope someday they become the old Vets at the VA talking about their past service with their comrades.

To all Veterans-past and present-I’d like to send this song your way as a thank you for your service. A small and inadequate thank you it is, but without you it’s a song we wouldn’t be able to sing.


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  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    November 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Tipper, Thanks for remembering the veterans today. My husband was in the Army for 21 yrs. We went every where with him but Greenland. The children got to see places that will stay with them the rest of their lives. He spent most of his time in the Guided Missiles and we were always out in the country protecting the large towns. We were glad when he retired and came back home to Cherokee, NC and built our home. Thanks to all other Vets. and my brothers.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the salute to our veterans. My husband served thirty-one years in the Army. He is retired now, but speaks about his experience whenever he can with young ones encouraging them and with those in his age bracket asking the very questions you mentions. God bless those who give so we can be safe.

  • Reply
    Dee Cochran
    November 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Oh Tipper – remember this post well. Have enjoyed reading it again and also the wonderful comments – not to mention the mighty fine pickin’ . Thanks for sharing !! ( Oteen was where my daddy at age 34 had two lobes of his lung removed waaaay back in 1960 or 61. It was a loooong road trip from Rogersville,Tn to Oteen then – no 4 lanes, etc. ). Thanks for this repost!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    November 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    tipper i loved the post this time as much as last time.. and that picture is so beautiful … pap sure was handsome and blessed with such a wonderful voice..
    i am thankful to all the vets .. my father inlaw is 92 and when he stays with us will reminisce about his time in the war.. and flying the hump.. one of the many he shares with me..
    thank you again for your posts and im so glad that pap is well… as always my prayers are with you and your family..
    sending big ladybughugs and love

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    November 11, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Blessings on all who, and continue to serve. Being nine days older than dirt, I can remember during WWII my grandmother crying when she’d get a letter from my twin uncles and the whole family coming to a stop to listen to the newscast (H. V. Kaltenborn)each evening. Pap looks right smart in his dress blues. I miss my Marine every day.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    November 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    This is such a “touchin'” post and
    I remember it from the last time.
    To ALL the Veterans and Servicemen
    a simple “Thank You” for your
    sacrifice in America’s Journey.

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    November 11, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    We have a series on WBIR TV in Knoxville called the Heartland Series. This morning Bill Landry had an episode of an old man walking up a path to a cemetery with his son to dig a grave. The man and son talked bout the son’s need to leave the mountains and see the world by serving the country. The son talked about the places he’d seen and the postcards he’d sent home. And the old man talked about the scrapbook his Mom kept and took out on occasion in fond memory. The old man told his son he understood why he had to go and was glad to have him home. The episode ended with the old man putting a sprig of flower on the headstone. Brings home the sacrifices so many made for the freedoms we take for granted. I honor and thank all those that served … with a tear of thanks in my eye.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I remember this post too. Thanks to all the veterans.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I have such respect and appreciation for all of our veterans. I always thank those I personally meet who have and still do serve our country so courageously and proudly. God bless Pap and all veterans who have made our country a better place!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    November 11, 2013 at 9:43 am
    Students from the College of the Ozarks.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I remember this post…
    Today we will be going to one of the free dinners for vets sponcered by a local resturant.
    They have been doing it for years. There is always a line out the door and around the parking lot. Some wear their hats, insignias or other proof of their service. There are the very old vets, barely able to walk and stand in line, some with spouses some not. Many have a spouse with them that was in the military at the same time together. I have seen them with crutches, in wheelchairs and rolling walkers.
    I don’t know why I don’t seem to see as many young veterans…I know they are here. I see them with a replaced leg or missing arms, etc. in public. I love to sit near a table, where a few old grey headed, sometimes bearded, sometimes with a head scarf (think motorcycle n’leather) are grouped up at a table they are having to share because of the crowd. I see this over and over. They will reach across and shake hands and greet. One might be a Marine, Army, Navy or Air Force.
    I know I am nosy..First they all tell where they were deployed, how long they were there, the branch of their service if it is not obvious and when and where they where discharged. Then they go into, exchanging buddies and if either or all would happen to know them or if they would happen to know where they were now. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes when talking about an area, the silence falls deafning…I have heard them say, hey I’ll see you here next year…Glad to meet you, and such! There is just something special about this informal get together…
    The Golden Corral realized this long ago before others started doing the same thing. I see most men and women go out of the resturant, of course with a free meal and full stomach, but the smiles and comaderie is worth more than a 100 free dinners!
    Thanks Tipper,
    Loved this post…

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

    May God Bless all Veterans today and every day. My relative chose to go to the VA Hospital when he became ill, even with excellent health insurance from the company where he retired. When I visited him there, I understood why he made that decision. The medical attention is just a small way to repay them for all they have done for our country.
    I just finished reading “And A Hard Rain Fell”, a true story written by a Vietnam GI. What a touching story! My “boyfriend” died in Vietnam when I was 15 years old. My ex-husband now suffers from Agent Orange exposure. The once extremely active sixth degree black belt karate instructor is suddenly wheelchair bound and requires oxygen 24/7.
    Pap doesn’t look like he has ever had a sick day in his life. It’s no wonder Granny fell in love with that handsome soldier.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Tipper – Like everyone, I am keenly aware of the debt we owe our veterans. The debt is so great it can never be repaid. And still, they all have this wonderful shared trait in that they ask nothing. They all are heroes they always seem to come to their country’s defense when needed out of the blue and from some of the most unlikely places. The history books are full of stories of them. Two stories I have always loved about them are the embattle farmers at the Concord Bridge during The Revolutionary War. They were farmers standing against trained soldiers but, what a fight they put on. That tank crew that refused to retreat at the bridge during The Battle of The Bulge and held out long enough for their buddies to escape. THANK YOU TO ALL OUR VETERANS ON THIS VETERANS DAY1

  • Reply
    November 11, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Tipper, I have spent a lot of time at the VA hospital with my dearly departed father-in-law. I was always touched by the comraderie that existed between them. From the oldest of vets to the youngest ones from Viet Nam and Desert Storm, there exists shared experiences that only those who have actually seen war first hand can know. My father was also a vet and won a silver star during WWII. My brother was a vet and served three tours of duty in Viet Nam. I want to thank each and every one of our service men and women for the sacrifices they make to keep our country the best in the world. They deserve the respect and admiration of each of us today and everyday!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    November 11, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Tipper: Until today I have missed this post. I am so glad you shared it again.I had trouble viewing the fellows but had no trouble listening to them. Crying is my ‘trade mark’ but I get by most of the time.
    My Daddy was not in the military but I had brothers serving in Vietnam – THREE ROTATIONS EACH! Now they pay the price with health issues!
    Thanks for sharing such meaningful details on this special day!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Annette Hensley
    November 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Thanks for reminding us all of our vets. I’d like to add that we also should have gratitude to the veterans’ families. They too sacrifice a lot. The wear and tear on those who have loved ones serving our country is pretty significant as you described in your post. So, on this special day, I’d like to salute our veterans and their families. May God bless you all!
    Also, I loved the photo of Pap in his dress blues. So handsome!!! Can’t believe how much Paul looks like him. Hope Pap is doing well!

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    November 11, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Tipper, I wish you wouldn’t make me cry first thing in the morning! But these are tears of mingled sorrow and gladness. Sorrow for those in pain and illness, for my own sweet daddy who served in WWII and whose malaria struck again and again, for my darling nephew on his way to Afganistan for the third time and all those brave men and women who stand between us and the “war’s desolation”. And gladness for the freedom they have given us with their sacrifices and hearts blood . God bless them each and every one!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 11, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Tipper, I remember this post and it brings a tear, again. Our veterans, our military stand guard, our first line of protection. I have profound respect for what they has done and continue to do for us every single day of every week, of every month, of every year!

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