Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Very Special Veteran's Day Program- Join us in Pittsburgh November 3, 2009

On Tuesday, November 3, 2009 John A. Brashear Lodge No. 743 will conduct a new kind of Veterans Day celebration.

Typically we commemorate the day in many of the traditional ways we see in our communities. This year’s program is titled Three Veterans, Three Stories: Three Lives of Service. Our speakers will share their stories of veterans who touched their lives and how they’ve turned to serving thousands through their life’s work. Speakers include Lisa Spahr, author of World War II Radio Heroes; Sgt. Lee Wagner, USMC; and Summer Tissue, Founder of Military Connections.

We will welcome ladies and non masons to this event, in conjunction with the theme of the program. At 6:30 PM we will offer hot and cold hors d'oeuvres for our guests. At 7:30 PM our speakers will conduct a short presentation for our guests until they are joined by the members of our lodge at 8:15 PM to begin the formal program.

Evening Proceeds and Donations will be made to Military Connections, a non-profit organization that ships equipment, care packages, and supplies to troops stationed overseas. The holiday season is fast approaching and many of our Soldiers and Marines do not receive care packages from anyone, but Military Connections, who ships over 900 care packages a month. Over 700 of the troops on the Military Connection mailing list have no family or friends to send them a box. We want to ensure that they are not forgotten. This year, Military Connections is attempting to ship over 10,000 filled Christmas stockings to the troops. Each stocking costs $30 to fill and ship. Any support we receive for this project will boost morale at an especially difficult time.

Masons through history have supported their countries through military service, and they have been privileged to support the contributions of our veterans through the years. This year we are pleased to broaden our focus to the family and the community at large, and recognize their sacrifice. We grow as citizens through our families, and draw strength from the support of our communities. This will be the focus of our celebration for Veteran’s Day.

John A. Brashear Lodge No. 743
541 McNeilly Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15226

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meeting Mr. Jankauskas!

I finally got the chance to meet Flavius Jankauskas (K3JA). He was one of the heroes I wrote about in World War II Radio Heroes. He wrote to my family at the age of 16 and then shortly thereafter went to sail ships for the wars effort himself, with the Merchant Marines.

I found Flavius when I reached out to another Jankauskas in the Philly area. This lovely man called me and said, "I don't know Flavius. I'm not even related to him! But, I've heard of him. I'd like to help you find him." And, he did. Within a week he had a good phone number and address for Flavius. We connected and have stayed in touch ever since.

Flavius was responsible for much of what I learned about short wave and ham radio during WWII, and today. He sent me package after package of things he found in the attic and basement from those days. It was always like Christmas when I got something from Flavius!

It took me too long to get there- 3 years! But, alas, I was able to meet him and his lovely companion, Friedl, in person, just a few weeks ago.

I spent a few hours with them, chatting as though we were old friends. Well, we are- even though we had not met in person before. I learned about Flavius' days in the opera- how fantastic! We talked about radios and his life and the irony of us all finding each other so many years after his wonderful deed to my family.

Flavius gave me the Howard 430 radio that he heard my grandfather's name on in 1943. I told him I'd treasure it and share it with others on my book tours. When the time comes, we'll make sure it goes into a museum for all to enjoy long after us.

My visit was as wonderful as I had always envisioned. He and Friedl are as wonderful in person as they are over the phone and email. I'm very fortunate to have met them. I look forward to my next visit!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Honor of the Navy: A Short History

Founded as the Continental Navy on October 13th 1775, the navy of the United States actually predates the United States itself. After the Rhode Island General Assembly and George Washington began to amass naval might, the Continental Congress passed the resolution for the creation of a navy which would intercept and seize British arms and supplies. While the quick mobilization of the previously unruly colonies and the creation of the navy were impressive, America’s few ships paled in comparison to Britain’s royal fleet.

There were moments of glory for the small navy during the Revolution, however, a number of which came from the nation’s first naval hero, John Paul Jones. Originally hailing from Scotland and a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, Jones transplanted himself to the new world shortly before the Revolutionary war. With important men to vouch for his prolific nautical experience on merchants, brigs, and for a short time slavers, although he despised them and quit in the middle of the Caribbean, Jones was quickly placed at a high rank in the navy. Of his achievements, he took the British sloop of war, Drake, off the coast of Ireland and most famously captured the HMS Serapis. When locked in battle, the HMS Serapis’ captain questioned Jones, asking him if he was ready to surrender, or strike his colors, to which Jones merely quipped, legendly replying, “I have not begun to fight yet!”

Jones and others like him fought heroically for the budding United States and, despite the exact numbers of wins and losses, proved to the downtrodden colonies that the British were not invincible and that was enough for the morale of the people.

After the Revolutionary War the size and even existence of the navy fluctuated over the years with the vicissitudes of need and money, but by the War of 1812 the navy was more formally established and ingrained into the seams of American society. By 1845 the United States Naval Academy was formed, where Jones is currently interred. In the following years the navy continued to expand through the Civil War and especially under the guidance of the later President Theodore Roosevelt, who firmly believed in the importance of the navy to the protection of the nation. The navy increased, decreased, and increased again through the World Wars and ultimately the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States became the uncontested naval superpower in the world.

Recently the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, have realized the adverse link between crises and the economy and are working with each other and international powers to prevent tragedies from occurring.

On this coming anniversary of the United States Navy’s creation, let us bear in mind all those who have gone before us and will come after us.