Posts by Janet

SALUTING AN UNCOMMON HERO

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Blog, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

FlagOn this Veteran’s Day, I want to give homage to Alex, a World War II hero, a United States Navy fighter ace and Medal of Honor nominee. Alex and I worked in the same Wells Fargo Bank office for six years back in the early 70’s. He worked upstairs in the Trust Department and I worked downstairs in the bank. I would see this man’s smiling face every day as he walked through the lobby and up the stairs. We would exchange pleasantries and at times chat in the lunch room. When my parents wanted to open a trust account, I set up the appointment and introduced my father, a retired Navy Captain, to Alex Vraciu, the Trust Officer.

By the mid 70’s I had relocated to the east coast and never saw Alex or most of my former coworkers again. One evening in the 80’s, I happened to be watching a program about World War II on Navy Seal 2television about the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”. Since I had visited the Marianas chain of islands, I was particularly intrigued. They were telling the story of the famous Navy fighter pilot, Alex Vraciu, already designated an ace because of his previous kills. But on June 19, 1943 he destroyed six Japanese dive bombers in a period of eight minutes. My eyes were glued to the screen watching the film footage as they detailed Alex’s many victories and illustrious career. I was stunned. Alex knew I came from a Navy family, yet he never mentioned he had served in the Navy.

Alex was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions at the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, but it was later downgraded to a Navy Cross. By the time the war ended, Alex was the US Navy’s fourth highest ranking ace. After the war he became a test pilot and played a part in forming the post-war Naval Air Reserve program. He was promoted to Commander and led squadron VF-51 from 1956 to 1958. In 1964 he retired and went into banking.

Commander Alexander Vraciu in front of an FJ-3 "Fury" like the one in which he won top honors at the 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet in El Centra, California. - U.S. Navy Photo

Commander Alexander Vraciu in front of an FJ-3 “Fury” like the one in which he won top honors at the 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet in El Centra, California. – U.S. Navy Photo 

Alex Vraciu was a hero, not only for his naval exploits, but also because of his remarkable humility. I suspect he and my father probably shared some Navy stories, but my father was also a man who did not believe in calling attention to one’s success, so he never shared what he knew of Alex with me.

Alex Vraciu is now 96 years old.  

“Fair Winds and Following Seas” Alex.

 

A note on a webpage set up to honor Alex states “ALEX VRACIU HAS NO DIRECT CONNECTION WITH THIS WEBSITE. THIS IS AN EFFORT BY HIS FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS, NOT BY ALEX HIMSELF. HE IS TOO MODEST A MAN TO PETITION FOR REDRESS.”

http://www.alexvraciu.net/Alex-Vraciu-Bio.html

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The United States Navy 239th Birthday

Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Blog, History | Comments Off on The United States Navy 239th Birthday

The American War for Independence gave birth to what is now the United States Navy.

In late May of 1775, the Second Continental Congress began meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to push back against the British King’s coercive acts. April battles in Massachusetts brought the colonies into open warfare with British troops, so in part the function of this Congress was to establish and manage the war effort.

Until that time each of the thirteen colonies had their own militias made up of part-time citizen soldiers. Now, a unifying army was needed. In June The Continental Army was established to coordinate the military efforts between the thirteen colonies.

Britain not only had the world’s most powerful army, but their navy dominated the seas. The British navy was providing material support to the British forces in the colonies and hindering colonial trade. John Adams, among others, was advocating for an American fleet needed to defend coastal towns from British raiders, and protect the import and export of goods. Many of the Delegates to the Congress were initially reluctant and hoped for reconciliation with the Crown. They viewed the establishment of a navy a step towards independence, and a foolhardy attempt to take on the strongest navy in the world. 

On October 3, 1775, resolutions and arguments were made regarding the establishment of a fleet. By October 5, word had come of more English supply ships en route to Quebec. Delegates from New England were far more vocal advocates for a navy than their mid-Atlantic and Southern counterparts, and fortunately they made up the committee that came up with a plan.

On October 13, the Second Continental Congress voted on legislation authorizing two sailing vessels to be armed and manned by crews of eighty. These ships were to be sent out for a period of three months to block British transports from carrying munitions and re-supplying the British forces in the colonies. Fortuitously, that same day, a letter from George Washington was read in Congress indicating that he had acquired three schooners to cruise off Massachusetts to intercept enemy supply ships. This seemed to provide all the motivation needed to develop the Continental Navy. Congress soon established a Naval Committee charged to establish and equip a fleet.

Maritime ships were recruited and refitted with armaments to serve as war vessels.  During the war, ultimately more than fifty armed ships made up the Continental Navy. They seized enemy supplies, and transported munitions and provisions from Europe. The new Navy captured nearly 200 British ships, some near the British coast, which diverted part of the British navy from protecting their own ships and

The Navy Seal

The Navy Seal

trade routes.

After the Revolutionary War, the Navy ships were sold and the seamen and officers let go. The Constitution of the United States, which was ratified in 1789, empowered Congress “to provide and maintain a Navy” which it has done ever since.

“The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”

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Remembering September 11, 2001 ~ And Two Passengers on Flight 93

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, History | 6 comments

Flag

Some incidents impact a nation so dramatically that people never forget where they were when they learned of the event ― September 11, 2001 was such a day. 

I was living in northern Virginia and working at the Community Bible Study National Service Center located in Reston Virginia. Since it was early September it was at the time of year that many of our CBS classes around the country were just getting underway again.  All the staff members attended one of the local classes, and a number of my co-workers were at class that morning.

I was in the office when we learned of the news, so immediately the television was turned on and many gathered around to watch and learn of the unfolding events ― and to pray.  Our normal office routine allowed for a time every morning when we would gather and pray.

Because of the office’s location in the Washington D C metropolitan area, we were even more impacted because the Pentagon was not far away. Some of our staff either knew people or had family serving in the military. My Navy son was stationed in Florida. My youngest son was a student at the Virginia Military Institute miles away in Lexington, Virginia. He was impacted by the attack on the Pentagon as he was on guard duty at the time and was one of many who had to deliver tragic news to fellow students about their parents. And then our staff heard that Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, PA was probably intended for the White House or the Capitol.

What we would soon learn was that two of the passengers of Flight 93 were two Community Bible Study Leaders, Don and Jean Peterson. Don was a CBS Teaching Director and Jean was a CBS Prayer Chairman. They lived in New Jersey and were on their way to Yosemite National Park in California for a vacation. They were offered the opportunity to take Flight 93 instead of their later scheduled flight, and took it.

The courageous narrative of how the passengers and crew members aboard the plane planned and overtook the hijackers is powerful.  There also were many stories of heroism in New York and Washington. 

In the days following September 11 flags appeared everywhere, churches were filled.

And for a time, the United States of America was just that ― united.

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VIRGINIA IS NOT JUST FOR LOVERS

Posted by on Aug 3, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, History | Comments Off on VIRGINIA IS NOT JUST FOR LOVERS

. . . it is also for historical film lovers.

Those of us who love history, look forward to movies or television programs that feature an era, event, location, or person we find fascinating. It’s even more fun if it is filmed in a location where you live or work. And, there is always the chance that you might get a chance to be a walk on or an extra. Here are some movies filmed in Virginia.

 

REVOLUTIONARY WAR ERA FILMS

 

TURN ~ A Revolutionary War era series shown on AMC about the Culper Ring, America’s first intelligence organization. It was based on the Alexander Rose book Washington’s Spies.   

Shirley Plantation

Shirley Plantation

TURN was filmed in numerous Virginia locations, Doswell, Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown near Ashland, Kittiewan Plantation, Westover Plantation, CentreHillMuseum, Farmer’s Bank, Petersburg Farmer’s Market, Shirley Plantation, Southside Railroad Depot.

 

JOHN ADAMS ~ A miniseries based on the David McCullough’s Pulitzer prize winning biography of John Adams

JOHN ADAMS was filmed in various Colonial Williamsburg locations

The Wren Building at the College of  William & Mary

The Wren Building
at the College of
William & Mary

including The Wren Chapel in the Christopher Wren Building at the College of William & Mary.

There is nothing unusual about seeing folks wandering around in period garb anyplace in the greater Williamsburg, Virginia area. One day, while some scenes of John Adams were being filmed, I happened to be doing some errands downtown. When I glanced across the street at the set, I was taken aback a bit by the snow-covered lawn in the middle of summer.

 

 

CIVIL WAR ERA FILMS

 

GODS AND GENERALS ~ An epic movie, based on Jeff Shaara’s God’s and Generals detailing many of the battles that led up to Gettysburg.

GODS AND GENERALS was filmed in Lexington, Richmond,

 

Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg. One of the filming locations was Robert Duvall’s estate in Virginia. He played Robert E. Lee in the film.

 

 

Virginia Military  Institute

Virginia Military
Institute

GODS AND GENERALS  was released in 2003 and is the prequel to the 1993 film Gettysburg. The movie is predominantly about Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson when he experienced numerous successes against the Union from 1861 to 1863. One of the film locations was The Virginia Military Institute (VMI). After Jackson graduated from West Point and served in the Mexican-American War he became a professor at VMI. When the Civil War began, Jackson re-entered the Army and took command of the VMI Corps of Cadets, where the students began training recruits to fight.

My younger son, a student at VMI at the time was one of the many cadet extras in the film. VMI looks much as it did during the Civil War so it did not require many alterations to the façade of the University.

 

LINCOLN ~ Addresses the last few months of Lincoln’s life that focuses his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment. It was based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns-Goodwin.

LINCOLN was filmed in multiple locations in and around Richmond and Petersburg. 

 

COLD MOUNTAIN ~ A Civil War era novel based on the book Cold Mountain written by Charles Frazier.

COLDMOUNTAIN was filmed in location near Petersburg, Carter’s Grove Plantation in Williamsburg, and Belle Isle in the James River near Richmond

 

Back in the early seventies, the filming of a scene from HAROLD AND MAUDE took place in downtown Palo Alto, California next to my office. Many of us who worked in the area would spend our lunch time watching part of the fascinating process of making movies.

 

Have you ever had the opportunity to live or work where you could observe a television program or movie being filmed?

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FATHER’S DAY

Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | Comments Off on FATHER’S DAY

Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can bring on a multitude of differing emotions, some painful  . . . some pleasant.

Some people will experience sadness on Father’s Day.  It may be a reminder of the loss of a beloved parent. Or it may be because not everyone has had a positive experience with their own father growing up, or as an adult.

Dad and the kids. I'm the short one.

Dad and the kids. I’m the short one.

 

It’s been said that the greatest gift a father can give his child is to love and respect their mother.

 

I was fortunate to have that, and it provided security and stability for me and my siblings. My father came from very humble beginnings, without any parental encouragement or support. Still, through hard

work and a desire for an education he got his degree in civil engineering from Ohio State University during the depression. I couldn’t ask for a better role model of integrity, loyalty, honesty, personal responsibility,

Ken - the best father a person could have

Ken – the best father a person could have

perseverance and thrift. I respected and loved this very reserved and quiet man.

 

 

This Father’s Day, I celebrate my precious husband who is not only a wonderful father, but has been like a father to my sons. I also honor my sons and a son-in-law. These three men are doing a terrific job loving their wives and raising their children.

 

Chris & Christy's Family

Chris & Christy’s Family

 

 

Jeff & Jill's family

Jeff & Jill’s family

Jimmy & Sanja's Family

Jimmy & Sanja’s Family

 

Some people who have had a poor, or non-existent, relationship with their earthly father may have a more difficult time understanding or accepting the love, provision, and protection from our Heavenly Father. My prayer is that those living with that disappointment, may come to know that by opening their heart to a relationship with Jesus, they can experience the unconditional love, and the provision, presence, protection, and peace with the Perfect Father. 

 

 

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