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17/365 – Honoring – Charles Crews

February 28, 2012

Charles Crews fought WWII beneath the Pacific Ocean as a submariner.  He and the crew of the USS Spot were depth-charged 4 times, twice by their own country.

Charles Crews

Born in 1921, Crews said, “I lost both parents before my 14th birthday.  We kids were raised by a compassionate stepmother, but I was on my own at 18.”  Crews milked cows and delivered milk until introduced to his civilian niche as a projectionist in movie theaters. “A friend that operated projectors in the Navy taught me the trade,” he said.

Enthralled by his buddy’s tales of the Seven Seas, Crews tried to join the Navy in 1939 but was turned down.  “Flat feet,” he stated.  Crews found work at the fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta.  “I ushered before a promotion to projectionist in the screening room where they censored films, like trying to cut ‘damn’ from Gone with the Wind.”

After Pearl Harbor, the Navy overlooked flat feet.  Crews said, “I boarded a train at Union Station in Oct ’42 for boot camp at Great Lakes, IL.  Our barracks was in a corn field, no hot water, no heat, but a bunch of Yankees.  We refought the Civil War.”

Crews’ first shipboard assignment was on a refurbished survivor of Dec 07, the battleship USS Nevada.  “I boarded in Seattle,” he said. “We took trail runs on Puget Sound before sailing to Long Beach, CA.  I danced with Betty Grable at a Hollywood canteen, saw Clark Gable and Bob Hope, and heard aging Sophie Tucker tell the boys, “There’s snow on the roof but there’s still a fire in the furnace.”

The Nevada joined battleships Idaho and Texas to bombard Attu Island in the Aleutians in ’43.  As a 40mm gunner, Crews watched the massive 16” guns fire their payloads.  “We put cotton in our ears,” he said.  “The battleship would rock like a baby cradle when those guns cut loose.”  Albeit, Crews realized battleships were not his forte.  He stated, “I preferred the notion of a close knit crew.”  He volunteered for submarines; passed all the tests, including the prerequisite of having all your teeth.

Assigned to submarine training in New London, CT, Crews endured 100ft diving tank trials, breathed underwater with the Munson Lung, endured the pressure tank (a 50% failure rate), mastered ‘the boat’ from bow to stern, and trained at sea on antiquated WWI subs.  Graduating 6th in a class of 150, Crews received orders for the USS Seawolf.  “The parents of a boy from Massachusetts wanted him to remain on the east coast so I swapped boats with him.  I took the USS Spot,” Crews said.  (The Seawolf was lost at sea in Oct of ’44.  There were no survivors).

Crews boarded the newly commissioned USS Spot in San Francisco.  “I operated the starboard side maneuvering board, plus kept fresh water in the batteries,” he said.  “A WWII sub used diesel engines to run on the surface but used batteries if submerged.  I’d crawl down a hole with a hose to water the batteries.  Leaking acid was always a danger.”

Ordered to Pearl Harbor, the crew of the Spot received a surprise upon arrival.  “We were told we’d been sunk,” Crews said.  “That sure was news to us.”

Combat lay ahead. “Wake Island was our first patrol,” Crews recalled.  “We sank merchant ships but I don’t remember any celebrations.  No guilty feeling, but we weren’t jovial about it either.”  Occasionally, their submarine made unauthorized rendezvous with seagoing Japanese ‘Junks’.  “They were everywhere,” Crews said.  “We knew they could radio our position in, but we still traded them our canned goods for fresh fish.  The navy finally stopped that barter system.”

Armed with torpedoes, a 5” deck gun, 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns, Crews recalled one encounter between the Spot and a merchant ship.  “Our 5” gun traded shells with the merchant ship.  We won the duel then sent a boarding party to search the vessel.  What the guys saw made them sick; they wouldn’t even talk about it.”

Crew members employ a 5-inch deck gun on the USS Spot that Rockdale County resident Charles Crews served on. In this undated photo, Crews said the men were firing on a Japanese ship. The photo was taken by a newspaper photographer as Crews stood by.

While taking on supplies from a sub tender off the island of Saipan, the sailors of the Spot saw the grisly results of fanatical militarism.  “The bleached bones of suicidal Japanese dotted the beach,” Crews said.  “We saw other bones, too, American.”

The Spot received credit for participation in the battle for Iwo Jima.  Crews said, “We remained on station to rescue downed airmen, young flyboys like future President George H. W. Bush, but other subs always beat us to the rescue.”

The Yellow Sea near China and the waters off Guam were also patrolled by men of the Spot. “On one occasion we surfaced inside an enemy convoy and attacked with the 5” deck gun, sank a few then submerged.  About the time we were settling into bunks, we heard ‘man your battle stations!’ The skipper resurfaced to engage another merchant ship.  He’d made a mistake.  The ship was a Japanese destroyer.   It raked our boys on the deck.  Several were badly wounded.  We immediately submerged, right into a mud bank. Depth charges pounded us for hours; it’s like bombs going off in your face.  I prayed for God to help us, he did.”

Mistaken identity caused the Army Air Force to attack the Spot once as did a US naval destroyer.  “That got old quick,” Crews stated.  Crewmembers of the US destroyer apologized to the submariners at a recent reunion.  Crews stated, “To be honest, I didn’t want to hear it!”

Of sub grub, Crews said, “Steaks, plenty of them, but we craved something green, like spinach or lettuce.  In port we’d pilfer supply crates and steal anything leafy green.”

In early ’45 the Spot found trouble in the Sea of Japan.  “We surfaced right in the middle of a mine field.  The skipper screamed, ‘Shut down engines, shut down engines!’ I can’t describe my feelings, especially when he said, ‘follow orders and be on your toes.’  I prayed a lot that day, too.  Then we heard ‘Dive!’ and we submerged straight down, like a rock, and luckily slipped away.”

The Spot returned to Pearl Harbor in July ’45 for repairs and supplies, but atomic bombs dropped on Japan made an overhaul and supplies unnecessary.  WWII ended with Crews sunbathing on Waikiki Beach.  “Nice way to end a war,” he said, smiling.

Crews retired as a film inspector from the Civil Service in 1997 but continued to work with audiovisual support systems. “My last gig in 2009 was a Mercedes Benz trade show at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, five grand for a week.  My first paycheck as a projectionist was $12.00.  Change can be good.”


Pete Mecca –

Pete Mecca – Vietnam veteran, columnist, and free-lance writer

If you’d like to be considered for one of my featured newspapers articles

entitled “A Veteran’s Story” email me at:


You can review my articles at:  or

Click on ‘community’ then click on ‘military news’


Honoring Marines Killed in Chopper Crash on 2/23/2012

February 26, 2012
English: UH-1Y Huey helicopter landing on ship

Image via Wikipedia

I just wanted to take a few moments to remember these 7 men and their families. Brave warriors, you will be missed, but not forgotten.  Semper Fi.
The Camp Pendleton-based aircraft collide during a nighttime training mission in a remote part of Imperial County. The accident is called ‘a grave reminder’ of troops’ sacrifices. – Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Maj. Thomas A. Budrejko, 37, of Montville, Conn., commissioned in the Marine Corps May 24, 1996 and served as an AH-1W Cobra pilot and Executive Officer of HMLA-469.
  • Capt. Michael M. Quin, 28, of Purcellville, Va., commissioned in the Marine Corps May 26, 2006 and served as a UH-1Y Huey pilot.
  • Capt. Benjamin N. Cerniglia, 31, of Montgomery, Ala., commissioned in the Marine Corps December 14, 2007 and served as an AH-1W Cobra pilot.
  • Sgt. Justin A. Everett, 33, of Clovis, Calif., enlisted in the Marine Corps February 19, 2002 and served as a helicopter crew chief aboard UH-1Y Hueys.
  • Lance Cpl. Corey A. Little, 25, of Marietta, Ga., enlisted in the Marine Corps March 30, 2009 and served as a helicopter crew chief aboard UH-1Y Hueys.
  • Lance Cpl. Nickoulas H. Elliott, 21, of Spokane, Wash., enlisted in the Marine Corps May 4, 2009 and served as a helicopter crew chief aboard UH-1Y Hueys.
  • Capt. Nathan W. Anderson, 32, of Amarillo, Texas, commissioned in the Marine Corps December 20, 2002 and served as a UH-1Y Huey pilot.  Anderson was assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

Read the article about the accident at

Army will contact all who had PTSD status changed at Madigan

February 24, 2012

The Army plans to contact every former soldier whose post-traumatic stress diagnosis was changed by a Madigan Army Medical Center psychiatry team over the past four years and likely will reevaluate many of those cases.

The Army Western Region Medical Command disclosed that new line of inquiry Wednesday as it summarized its first review of a Madigan team responsible for checking the mental health diagnoses of soldiers seeking medical retirements.

Of 14 soldiers who challenged the psychiatry team’s adjustments, the Army reinstated the original PTSD diagnoses for six. The reinstatement entitles them to a disability pension of at least 50 percent of their Army salaries – more than what they would have received under the team’s changes.

In six other cases, clinicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center concluded the Madigan team was correct in changing PTSD to other conditions, such as anxiety disorder. Those diagnoses do not come with immediate disability pensions.

The remaining two soldiers were never diagnosed with PTSD, and the Walter Reed reviewers determined those decisions were correct.

“These results clearly show that the PTSD evaluation process by this unit at Madigan has been deeply flawed,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Wednesday. “How many other service members have been wrongly diagnosed, how much cost played a role in these decisions, and how widespread this problem is, are still big, unanswered questions.”

Maj. Gen. Philip Volpe, commander of the Western Region Medical Command based south of Tacoma, said the results show that further investigation is warranted.

“We have a responsibility to identify the cause of variance, eliminate diagnostic variance, and standardize our processes across all of Army medicine,” Volpe said in written remarks.

Read more here:


16/365 – Honoring – Katherine Davis

February 22, 2012

Rockdale native Katherine Davis confessed, “I’ll admit being a spoiled brat in my younger days, but after high school I realized I needed to transform my life.  After talking to recruiters I knew the toughest challenge would be the Marines.”

OnJune 06, 2005Davisboarded a Marine bus atFt.GillemforParris Island,SC.

“My mom cried,” she said.  “I asked myself, ‘Katherine, what have you done, girl?’”

Davis recalled Parris Island.  “I’d never been screamed at so much in my life, and I don’t remember seeing a bed for 2 days.  The training was rough and crude, but I wasn’t going to quit, I wanted to be a marine.”

Ironically, her peaceful moments came on the rifle range.  “Nobody messed with you there, they couldn’t.  I had time to collect myself.”  With a fear of heights, the rappel tower was her biggest challenge.  “I remember the drill instructor, a woman I swear was bi polar, yelling, ‘Davis, you’re going to hit the ground,’ but I made it, and finished my 13 weeks of basic.”

After combat training at Camp Lejeune,Davis was sent toFt. Leonardwood, MO   to learn the ins and outs of the 7 ton truck, the Humvee, and a dragon-looking hydraulic beast called the LVS.  Her first duty assignment was Camp Pendleton,CA.  There she joined Combat Logistics Battalion 15 and received her first ‘float’ (sea duty).

She recalled, “I sailed on the assault carrier USS Boxer escorted by 2 other ships.  We’re called a MEU, marine expeditionary unit.  We’re at the President’s beck and call.  We go where needed.”

Ports-of-call like Hawaii, Singapore, and Australia were preludes to Kuwait, and a war called Iraq.  “We anchored off Kuwait and took hovercrafts into the beach where we formed a truck convoy.  The drive intoIraqwas my last cry, fully understanding I might not see my mom again.  But I’m a marine; I had a job to do.”  They drove for 21 straight hours in 20 trucks, doing whatever they could to stay awake.  Destination: Camp Korean Village in Anbar Province.

For over 2 months Davis transported needed supplies into the Iraqi city of Rutbah, a 40 minute drive amid IEDs (improvised explosive devices).  “It was chilling,” she said.  “We made ‘long’ security halts, meaning we got out and looked.  A ‘short’ security check meant we stayed inside the truck doing a 5 and 25, that’s looking 5 meters front and rear, then 25 meters to the sides.”

The driver is the ‘vehicle commander’ regardless of rank.  On one ‘short’ security check Davis spotted white and blue wires sticking out from a guard rail post.  “The white wire was clean, no dust or sand on it.  We were in trouble.” Davis tried to communicate with the convoy via radio, but couldn’t get through.  “We were parked next to an IED and couldn’t warn our convoy, it was maddening.  I asked the staff sergeant sitting next to me what to do.  He said, ‘You’re the vehicle commander, it’s your call.’  Well, okay then.  If it was a remote control IED the enemy would detonate it when we started to move, but if a pressure plate IED was beneath us it might detonate, too.  I decided we’d move with the convoy.  Thank God, nothing happened.”

They called in the IEDs coordinates; a demolition team checked it; and indeed the devise was remote controlled. Davis said, “A Humvee may have unknowingly jammed the IED, or the trigger-man was too far off.  Either way, it’ll make your heart skip a beat or two.”

Davis also served 5 months at Camp Walliedon the Syrian border.  She was the only female.  “The guys were very protective and conducted themselves like gentlemen.  I got a few catcalls.  A marine is a marine, but I’m a lady marine, and we were trained to remain so.”

Davis requested one incident be reported above all others.  “We were walking the perimeter on security detail in Rutbah guarding our commanding officer as he conducted political business.  A little girl ran up and kept staring at me.  My neck gator was pulled up (a cloth the lady marines use to cover their faces because Iraqi men do not want their women to see other women in positions of power) but I pulled it down and smiled at her.   She didn’t speak a lick of English but lit up like a Christmas tree, grabbed my blouse and didn’t let go for 2 hours.”

“When we began our pull-out she suddenly ran back into a refugee building; then returned a minute later.  Someone had taught her 3 words in English.  When I leaned over she said, ‘I love you’.  I told her, ‘I love you, too,’ then we were gone.  That made 4 years of duty and training and war worth the price.”

Several marines from Davis’ unit received traumatic brain injuries during combat in Fallujah but the unit suffered no fatalities.  She returned to Camp Pendleton, sailed on one more ‘float’ aboard the USS Pearl Harbor, and ended her service at Camp Pendleton advising new marines under deployment.

Recently interviewed for a position in an attorney’s office, Davis was told the law firm held their employees to a higher standard. Davis told the interviewer, “Ma’am, I’m a United States Marine.  I’m already there.”

Pete Mecca – Vietnam veteran, columnist, and free-lance writer

If you’d like to be considered for one of his featured newspaper articles

entitled “A Veteran’s Story” email Pete at:

You can review his articles at:  or

Click on ‘community’ then click on ‘military news’

News Channel Five Nashville – Story on Project 365 Vets

February 21, 2012

News Channel Five out of Nashville, Tennessee interviewed us about Project 365. The story aired at 10 P.M. tonight.   Thank you Aundrea and Bob for being so gracious and  helping me feel at more at ease.

Mid-State Mom Honors Veterans With Blog – | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

A mid-state mother of five had a simple idea about how to honor veterans. Tina Shang went back to school and was told by a teacher that a blog is a good way to improve her writing. So she started one, committed to telling veteran’s stories each day of the year. It’s already taken off.

“I served three years in Iraq before I was injured. It was June 11th, 2004, the day that would change me forever,” Shang recited from veteran Brandi Surplis’ entry.

Shang is giving veterans a voice by allowing them to tell their own stories, in their own words on a blog she created called 365 Veterans.

“You don’t have to lose a leg to be my hero,” Shang said. “You served your country and I want to honor you.”

For 365 days she hopes to share a veteran’s story.

“I never thought about what I did. I guess it was a job I signed up to do,” Surplis said.

It’s a job, with Shang’s help, Surplis can now share with the world.

You can see the video through the link above. Thank you all for your continued support and to all of our veterans thank you for sharing your stories and lives with us.

15/365 – Honoring – Bill Edwardy

February 15, 2012

Most combat veterans live and sleep with the nightmares of only one war, but Bill Edwardy copes with the vivid memories of three.

Savannah-born Edwardy worked at an early age as a riverboat night-watchman to help support his family.  By the age of 18, he was plowing the stormyAtlanticas a mess attendant aboard a ship toNew York,Newfoundland, andNova Scotia.  He said, “It was 1940 andCanadawas already in WWII.  A German U-boat stopped us but let us go when their captain found out we were Americans.  He spoke perfect English.”

Edwardy decided to join the Navy but was turned down.  “Flat feet,” he said with a smile.  Albeit, afterPearl Harbor; Edwardy and his flat feet were accepted by the Army in May of ‘42.

After basic training, he was sent to Pneumonia Gulch – Jefferson Barracks,Mo.  “It was by the river, we slept in tents and stayed sick,” he said.  His high school musical talents earned him a posting to the Army band, but the musical talents gave way to his peace-time hobby: photography.  Retrained in photo intelligence, Edwardy soon sailed out ofSan Franciscoon the Luxury liner The Isle de France en route toBombay,India.

Dodging Japanese subs and surviving a typhoon, the Isle de France finally made port inBombay.  Edwardy recalled, “The sanitary conditions inBombaywere repulsive.”   With holes in the floors of railcars for bathrooms, his train ride toCalcuttawasn’t exactly a bed of roses either.

Edwardy processed photo intelligence from B-24 bomb runs to make the mosaics for future missions.  He said, “Initially we stood up and shot recon photos out of the B-24 escape hole, but we eventually rigged up metal seats for more comfort.”  Comfort did not equate to safety.  “I lost a lot of friends on those missions.”

After 2 ½ years inIndia, Edwardy was sent to Lowry AFB inDenver, train a new batch of photo processors.  “I was inDenverwhen the Japs surrendered,” he stated.  “What a party!  I remember riding on the top of streetcars….I think.”

Joining the reserves, Edwardy returned toSavannahand took on-the-job training as a diesel mechanic on tug boats. He became a chief engineer and earned a radio license, but now married to his childhood sweetheart, Eleanor, a land-based vocation made more sense.  He was hired by The Singer Sewing Machine Company and worked as Asst. Mgr, then a Manager, and opened a store inStatesboro,Ga.until the Korean War required his military talents.

Called back to duty, Edwardy finagled his way into the Air National Guard before receiving orders.  Assigned to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing F-86 Fighter Jet Squadron at Kimpo AFB near the port city ofInchon, Edwardy recalled, “On the day I arrived the hangers were still smoking from an attack.  Kimpo sat on a plateau so we could watch the fighting below, and shells flew over the base constantly fromInchon.”  Antiquated North Korean aircraft would raid Kimpo and literally throw out their bombs.  “It was brutally cold which made it was easy to see the exhaust from their planes,” Edwardy said. “One day we watched a Navy jet chase a slower enemy plane but the jet didn’t compensate for the speed.  They collided in mid-air, nobody got out.”  Edwardy survived his second war.

Sent toJapan, Edwardy was joined by his wife, son and daughter for an enjoyable 4 year stint.  Then began the military peace time grind: back toDenverto instruct aerial photography, 4 years inDublin,Gaas an Air Force recruiter, changing careers to aircraft

maintenance to earn flying status on C-123s, a posting at Homestead AFB in Florida and serving as crew chief on C-119s at Otis AFB, Ma.  In the late 1950’s Edwardy received training in a skill that would guarantee participation in his 3rd war: diagnostic debriefings and maintenance on the most modern and hottest fighter in the U.S. Air Force inventory – the legendary supersonic F-4 Phantom.

In his third war, Edwardy discovered the maps in use so out-of-date thatVietnamwas still called French Indochina. “That was early-on in the war,” he recalled.  “We even wore civilian clothes into Tan Son Nhut and Bien Hoa.”  Early-on still meant death and destruction.  “We lost many a pilot on the early recon missions flying O-1 Birddogs and the slower than slow Helio U-10s,” he said.

Three wars were enough.  Edwardy spent five years inTurkeyand completed his military career in 1975 at Edwards AFB, Ca.   Retired, he called his old employer – The Singer Sewing Machine Company.  “I asked for my old job,” he said.  “They asked me how long I had been gone and I told them 28 years; that produced a long silence on the other end of the line.”

Amazingly, Edwardy got his job back and worked at The Singer Sewing Machine Co until they went out of business, then worked for 10 years as an officer in the auxiliary Coast Guard inPanama CityBeach, Fl.  “That was interesting,” he said.  “What people do on water is incredible.  They run out of fuel; get thrown out of boats without their life vests; hit waves at full-throttle and damage their boats; get drunk while driving a boat not knowing their boats can be taken away.  Shoot, I’ve heard boaters tell the Coast Guard to go to hell and they end-up in jail.  Yep, it’s pretty incredible.”

Bill Edwardy endured a Great Depression, worked any job obtainable, fought and survived three wars while raising a family.  Yep, pretty incredible.

Pete Mecca –Vietnamveteran, columnist, and free-lance writer

If you’d like to be considered for one of his featured newspaper articles

entitled “A Veteran’s Story” email Pete at:

You can review his articles at:  or

Click on ‘community’ then click on ‘military news’

Missing Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom – Please help spread the word.

February 14, 2012

Janice Rubendall is a family member of a personal friend of ours, she helped our Country by serving in the Iraq war and now she is Missing and needs our help. Please share this far and wide so that we can find this young lady and bring her home so that she can get the help she needs.

The moment that Ashley Barton saw the car, she knew something was amiss.

Janice Rubendall MISSING

The cream-colored Chrysler PT Cruiser with California plates and a U.S. Marine Corps sticker had appeared near the end of the first week of January, parked by itself in a seldom-used auxiliary lot at the Riverview Landing at Valley Forge community in West Norriton. It was nearly half a mile from any of the housing units.

“They only use that lot when the Schuylkill floods the regular parking lot,” said Barton, who lives in the complex. “Maybe once or twice a year. It’s on high ground. They tell us to park there and run shuttles [to the housing units]. Nobody would [normally] park there. I knew something wasn’t right.”

Through the car’s windows, she could see a purse and some military items. Traffic audibly zipped by on the nearby Betzwood Bridge that carries US 422 over the Schuylkill River.

“All of this [military] paraphernalia,” Barton said. “Posters, war stuff.”

Barton said she called West Norriton Police, but was told that police had already checked out the car out after an earlier call from another resident.

“They said it wasn’t stolen. I was more worried about the person who left it there,” Barton said.

The car belongs to Janice Rubendall, a resident of the Trooper section of Lower Providence. Rubendall, a 25-year-old Marine Corps veteran, was reported missing by her father, Robert Rubendall, on Feb. 9. He hasn’t seen his daughter since Jan. 4.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Janice Rubendall should contact the Lower Providence Police Department at 610-539-5900.

Please Share her Flyer with your friends. An online flyer is an excellent way to get the word out about a Missing Person. With today’s technology it can be viewed literally anywhere.

Missing on Facebook: Source:

Download high quality flyer more suitable for printing posters by selecting “Large” at:

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