Appalachia Holidays in Appalachia

Veteran’s Day In Appalachia

I’m not sure if it’s because Pap was a Marine-or because 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?

The good doctors at the VA Hospital in Oteen take care of Pap’s medical needs. 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. 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 their faces 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-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-like the gentleman who was discharged at the same time Pap was one time. 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 wonder how long he made it-but know his wife and daughter would 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 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 told Pap 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.

I look at the old veterans and think- 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-is that they live long lives surrounded by family and friends who love them-is that someday they become the old Vets at the VA talking about their past service with their comrades.



This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in November of 2010.


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  • Reply
    Angie Siddall
    November 12, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I THANK all the veterans world wide, that made our countries and families safe. The horrific events that you lived through and suffer from STILL to this day is absolutely unthinkable.
    I pray that you can recieve peace and calmness in your hearts and minds for the trauma you’ve experienced. Many blessings to you for your bravery and courage that you had to overcome to pick up arms against another soldier. May you find peace in the years you have left, surviving with your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) May God be with you ALL to lighten the burden of your own personal pain and heart wrenching experiences.
    Thank you so much…Angie

  • Reply
    November 12, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Wonderful post Tipper. Thanks and even more thanks to our veterans!

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    November 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Tipper, today’s posts are really a beautiful tribute to our veterans of all wars. Today is a sad day for me,but really about the other day. Thanks to all our Veterans, those still living and those that have gone on. We salute all. I mean a true salute, the ones who died in Fort Hood never got a true one.
    We were in the Army for 22 years and was proud of every day. My one brother was in Korea and one in Vietnam. They saw some horrible sights.
    One of the young friends we grew up with here in Birdtown community was
    Charles George. Charles was killed when he threw his body on a hand grenade to save his four buddies.He lived down the road about a mile and half from our house.Charles was a full- blood Cherokee Indian. They named something at Oteen Hospital for him.
    At our 100th Annual Cherokee Indian Fair in Oct. last month, we had a group of Montagnard People (Vietnam) French term for Montagnard meaning “People from
    the Mountains(s)” refers to an indigenous people group from the Central Highlands of Vietnam. These people helped our soldiers during the war. Montagards immigrated to the US states of North Carolina and South Carolina
    in the late 1970’s. They are Christians and teach Christianity
    to their people in their language,
    the same way the Cherokee taught their families, before they learned to speak English.
    I learned something that day, it was Elders Day.I met some of the Adult Montagnard men and young girls. I was in my daughters booth and the girls were buying some beaded earrings.They are small in size.
    Well, I would love to have the book you are giving away. It sounds just like the way I grew up, only the land situation is different. Our land is held in trust by the U.S.Government. We each have an Enrollment Card with our Degree of Cherokee Blood, our name, number and picture. If we have a mountain our parents have to give it to us or sell to us. You have to be 1/16 degree to be enrolled. I love what part of the
    mountains we have but there is always some one on the other side like,the Smoky Mt. Park on one section. I love it except, I don’t like to hear the Ravens, reminds me of the myth of the “Raven Mocker”
    About the riddles, I knew most but not all and the Appli. words we say the same. I was without my computer a few days. I decided to
    clean it out and I had to have the computer man come out and get me back on line. Never do that again.
    Thanks Tipper and all who are on the Blind Pig. Thanks to “Pap”, is he the handsome man in the Uniform? “Pap” or “Pap-paw”, this is what our grands and great-grands call their grand paw and I’m Nannie or Nan. Thanks for all your work. You do good things.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    November 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    This is very humbling.. Thank your Pap for his service to our country..We can never thank them enough.. It is so true what you said about the veterans. My husband goes to Asheville and I’ve heard them talk.. Brings tears to my eyes sometimes..Thanks for the great post.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Am a former Marine myself, Sergeant 1969-72. Our dad was a Marine and our nephew is a Marine SSgt. currently serving in Quantico, Va after spending time at Parris Island, Okinawa, Camp LeJeune, Okinawa again, Camp Pendleton and Afganistan. We sure are blessed he got home safely, we pray for those still there and we pray for the loved ones of those lost in foreign lands.
    Unless one has served, they often don’t understand that it’s a “calling” one receives deep within their heart to protect others – regardless of personal cost.
    SEMPER FI!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 11, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Tipper – Let us not forget there is a grander army in which my Daddy served and your Pap still serves. It is all volunteer and accept all who would join. Even the weakest can march straight and proud.
    Daddy had pins, ribbons, badges and a flag draped casket to denote his military service in the Army of the United States of America, but none of that could hold a candle to the glory bestowed on him for his service in the Army of the Lord.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    You made my glasses fog up with
    your appreciation of our Vets.
    I totally agree. In the mid to
    late 70’s I worked in a Tool and
    Die shop right behind the Veteran’s Building at Oteen. Have
    enjoyed many a meal in their
    cafeteria. We became friends with
    the ground’s keeper and he would
    leave the big fense gate open for
    us. Sometimes we got to eat with
    lots of Doctors and had some of
    the best of times. My affection
    runs deep for all our Veterans
    and I just simply say “thanks”.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Much respect and many thanks to Pap and all those who served and continue to serve our great nation.
    God bless each one and God bless the USA!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    November 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    “Back in the 60’s,
    He thought everyone was hip,
    Then they sent him off to Viet Nam,
    On his senior trip,
    They forced him to become a man,
    While he was still a boy.”
    From “The Old Hippie” by the Bellamy Brothers

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    All veterans have a place in my heart. I always get goose bumps when I think of them and see our flag. I wish there was someone here today that could sing and play “America the Beautiful” for me at the piano. That would give me a severe case of goose bumps! So to all you vets….THANK YOU ALL!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    November 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    My husband is a former Marine and Viet Nam war veteran and you bet we celebrate Nov. 10, the Marine Corps birthday, and Nov 11, Veterans Day!
    Blessings and thanks to all our service men and women!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    November 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    ohh tipper you brought tears to my eyes.. i could hear and picture the words you told… about the veterans and their stories. i am fortunate to have my father in law still, and he tells me of his days of flying over the hump… and other flights overseas.. and as you said.. its like it was just last week that they are talking about.. i guess its because they were so young then, and it was such an important time in their lives, and such a meaning to our country. i thank all veterans also, and may you all have a wonderful veterans day, with loved ones and friends around you.
    special hugs to pap and the family tipper
    and as always thank you so so much for your wonderful blog.. im blessed to have found you
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Hello Tipper,
    I will occasionally go to one of the local restaurants in the late morning and have coffee with a friend, one of the county commissioners. Approximately 80% of our county is owned by Fort Benning and on most days a few soldiers will start coming in for lunch before we leave. My friend makes a point of thanking them right then “…for everything you do.” which in my opinion is more than proper, thanks for doing his (or her) job while s/he’s doing it, not after it kills him or her. I am old enough, of course, to remember when November 11 was called “Armistice Day” signifying and perhaps glorifying the end of The First World War in 1918, and I for one approve of the renaming and re-purposing the holiday.
    Now please excuse me, gotta call my youngest son, the retired sergeant…

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    November 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I wrote this last year, in response to a post on an on line forum. I saved my response, but don’t recall the exact location. It upset me to read the initial post, so I didn’t save a link.
    “Thoughts for Veterans Day, 11/11/11
    No one likes war, least of all those who have to fight it. Forty years later, my former commanding officer has much emotional baggage about giving orders that got good men killed or wounded. Despots create situations where they can only be stopped by force. If no one is willing to take out the 2-legged garbage, the despot wins by forfeit. If your Hitler offends thee, pluck it out. You may freely substitute Saddam, Ho Chi Minh, Attila the Hun, or other dictator of your choice. It still comes down to the same thing, well-meaning civil leaders have to send soldiers to do what needs doing. Or, we can just surrender every time. The surrendering will never end, once all the despots think you will attempt to preserve peace at any cost.”

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    November 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks to all our veterans and the ones serving now. I enjoyed reading this post again..Save it to keep reminding us of another special day we should celebrate and honor all our men and women in uniform now and then.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I miss my daddy and uncles, all WW II veterans. My poor Grandma Johnson had all those sons off in the war all over the world, Greenland, Europe, and the Pacific. I bet she was a nervous wreck.
    Pap looks handsome in his uniform. I remember looking at Daddy’s and my uncles’ service pictures and wondering why, back in 1972, the boys in my high school couldn’t be that handsome.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Love the last paragraph, caps all the stories and thoughts well.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    November 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I would like to say thank you Pap and all the vets out there.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Grateful thanks to Pap and all the other brave souls who have fought to make and keep our great country free!

  • Reply
    Joy Newer
    November 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

    To All Veterans God Bless You And Thank You. Grandmother Joy.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    November 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I had forgotten that your Father is a Marine, Yesterday was the Marine Corps Birthday. Tell Pap that I said Happy Birthday and Semper Fi.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 10:05 am

    A big thank you to all our veterans for protecting this nation.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    November 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Dear Pap, we are grateful and humbly thankful for your service..with our Lords grace and your service we live in a Great Nation.. May the Lord bless you and give you many good days ahead,, and be able to keep plucking them strangs.. enjoy all your songs…

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    November 11, 2012 at 9:43 am

    we see these older veterans and some people don’t realize that when they went to war they were such young boys- and that their growing into men happened fast and often brutal. Many endured and saw things that forever changed the path of their lives. They did it for their country and for all of us. May we never forget and always remember to give thanks.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I’m so thankful for our veterans and also thankful for the VA Hospitals across the country. I have many friends and family that have served our country and utilize the services provided by the administration. A few of the guys retired from places like GE and still go to the VA for medical attention. I saw first-hand why they are so fond of the care provided there.
    I thank all veterans for their service, but especially the ones who fought in Vietnam. I lost a ‘boyfriend’ to the enemy when was just 18 and I was 15. My ex-husband suffers from exposure to Agent Orange and has a loss of muscle, bone and organs. He was never a smoker, yet he is on oxygen as his lungs are only functioning at a small percent.
    As Billy Ray Cyrus said in his song, “Some Gave All.” Thanks Pap!

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 9:19 am


  • Reply
    John Reese
    November 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

    God Bless the men and women who serve and protct this great country we live in. I to have a son in the military and a brother who retired and his wife who still serves. They are all in my prayers as are all military personal. THANK YOU ALL.

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    November 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I truly appreciate the sacrifices of my father, uncles, cousins, and friends who gave of their lives to protect those at home from a wicked world, but in all honesty I wish we didn’t have a Veterans Day. I wish a young man didn’t have face death at the hands of another young man very much like himself. Or face putting an end to that other young life. Why does he have to be acclaimed because his government forced him to do something he wouldn’t have done on his own.
    What if our heroes could be heroes without death or dying or bullets or wars? Our heros would still be the same people. We would just have more uplifting reasons to celebrate them.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    November 11, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Tipper, as I have recently discovered, visiting the VA hospital AS an old man can be even more humbling!This is another great post, from a perspective most people can never experience. Being the daughter of a Marine certainly must make you more sensitive and caring! Tell Pap I like that “Rifle Expert” badge on his chest…those weren’t easy to get!

  • Reply
    November 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Well said Tipper!
    Respect and honor for our soldiers is very important! My family started serving before the Revolutionary War and my Uncle is now the last one to have served as a Navy Commander. I remember well when the Nam vets showed up on the GI Bill at our local college. Many of them had very little to live on and were trying to make a new life for themselves. A small group of High School students got together and fixed meals for them once a week and I will never forget the stories and the gratitude. I think that a lot of people do not realize how many of our military families do not have what they need and how many of them show up with their families at food banks. It is a disgrace and I encourage all of your readers to find out what the needs are of our military families around them and try to help take up the slack this Veterans Day and Everyday!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    November 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Yes, I agree with your wishes and gratitude to all who have served. My husband served thirty-one years in both active and reserves. He doesn’t relate too many war stories with me, but he does with others who just seem to be there. There seems to be a sense that they find each other, especially those who were in Viet Nam. God bless our military and bring them home soon and out of harms way. Thank you for helping our country keep its freedoms.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I think I was in the fourth grade when my mom took me to a VA Hospital to visit her relative. I think he was an uncle and I think it was in Tennessee. I remember big screened in porches with lots of men sitting around visiting with family.
    I don’t remember what was wrong with him but knew that he would not be leaving. After that visit his daughter, who was the age of my older sister, came to live with us for a while.
    Sadness and loss abound among war ravaged survivors.
    Military service asks a lot of a man or woman. They give it freely to protect hearth and home.
    Tipper, your post is well put. Thank you for remembering our military veterans.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    November 11, 2012 at 7:51 am

    While reading this it brings back many memories of my life from 1942 thru 1946. Some of these memories I try to forget. As I write my memories in the books I publish I never mention the the bad part of what happened after and during the days we went into Normendy in 1944. I feel It’s best I try to forget.
    I am blessed to have reached the age of 90. Many of my comrads and friends did not.
    God Bless America.
    Charles Fletcher

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 11, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Thank you, Tipper, for the poignant reminder of how dearly our freedom has been won by persons like your Daddy and my dear late husband–who spent the last four years of his life in the Georgia War Veterans’ Home here. Tomorrow I will go, as a Community Volunteer of our local GWVH, to the service planned for Veterans’ Day. We will hear a good speech lauding our heroes, past and present. We will be reminded of how dearly our freedom has been won–and is maintained. May we, as well, be reminded to remain vigilant. As frightful as it sounds, we may be just one generation away from the freedoms so dearly won! God help us!
    To all the veterans, still living and those who have heard taps for the last time, a heart-felt and sincere “Thank you!” From a grateful citizen, Ethelene

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    November 11, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I am a vet, but I went on active duty just at the end of the Vietnam War, so I almost 4 years with 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas.
    My Dad served in WWII in the Navy and will celebrate his 90th birthday in March. His time in the Navy is clearly the highlight of his memories. He served on a small sub chaser and I am planning to take him to the Patrol Craft Sailors’ Association reunion in Norfolk, VA in May.
    Dad was also able to go on one of the Honor Air flights to Washington a couple of years ago. That was a wonderful experience for him.
    I just wish we could live in a world where we didn’t need for our men and women to go overseas and risk their lives.

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    November 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Excellent post, Tipper, then and now. God bless you for remembering our veterans.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    November 11, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Beautiful post, Tipper. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    November 11, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Well said Tipper. I hope that we as a nation and as individuals will find ways to show our grateful appreciation for their service. It was and is through the selfless sacrifice of these men and women that my life has been so greatly improved and protected. Thank you Veterans both past and present.

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