Monday, November 18, 2013

So You Want To Be An Alaskan Crabber?

As I mentioned in one of my last posts, I just love to see the law of attraction in action.  For those of you who are not familiar,  the law of attraction is when you put your thoughts and energy into something and then you begin to attract people or circumstances about that same thought.  If you feel like you have never experienced this,  you have but may not have been aware of it.  A great example is this blog.  I started this journey without knowing much about Alaska, well other than it has the most stunning geography,  that they have some great fishing, and that my grandfather fought up there in WW2 and oh, Northern Exposure, I loved that show.  And now on a weekly basis,  I either get emails or run into people who are connected to either WW2 in Alaska or those who previously or currently live there, have family there, work there etc...   It does not matter how often it happens, the excitement of the discovery never gets old.  It makes this large world we live in seem so small. 

Crab fisherman, pilot, throttle man, Captain , and all around good 
guy- Travis Lofland at last year's book signing.

One of the great, Alaskan rooted, people I have met in the last year is Travis Lofland.   If that name sounds familiar, it should.  He is one of those brave Alaskan crab fisherman who for the last 10 years, has entertained us weekly on Discovery's hit show The Deadliest Catch.   Turns out, when he is not on the Bering Sea, he lives near me and thanks to the magic of social media, we were able to connect and become friends. Travis is an incredibly inspirational guy who wears a lot of hats besides the burly tough guy crabber.  

It was about this time last year, I discovered that Travis and his Corn en Bleu trained chef of a brother, Jason Lofland, collaborated to create a very cool and manly Cookbook titled CATCH. I got wind that he was going to be on our local radio station and simply contacted him.  You see, I had this big idea of a book signing/cookout featuring him and his book.  He was delightfully onboard so I happily set up a big ol' book signing (a.k.a. party) which was put on a by a great company in our community, Anna Maria Island Accommodations.  They cooked up and served over 200 of his delectable fish tacos (page 134) to all who were willing to wait in line.   Needless to say, the turn out was huge and he nearly ran out of books.  It was the most fun I have had in months!

Click here to order.

Since then, Travis and I have remained in contact.  I love hearing about his shenanigans.  And by shenanigans, I mean the guy never stops.  He moves from one adventure to the next.    He dreams big and goes for it.    I love it.  Besides working at one of the most deadliest jobs, crab fishing in the treacherous Alaskan waters for the last 13 years, he is also a proud pilot- his plane, a Mooney, stays here in the lower 48... for now.   And when he is not flying or fishing, he is zipping around at ridiculous speeds in the warm Florida waters as the throttle man in the big boy power boat- The Instigator.  Now that, my friend,  is some craziness.  They placed first in their class this past July. 

Sarasota Powerboat Parade, July 2013
On land, with both feet planted, you can find him in the back country tackling wild animals then turning them into mouth watering dinners for segments in his own aspiring TV travel/cooking show called "Catch Em, Kill Em and Grill Em".  A concept I dig.  I'm no hunter but I love to eat meat!

As if that is not enough, his latest venture is starting a charter fishing company out of Key West which will open when he gets back from the crab fishing season working on board the legendary F/V Cornelia Marie.  

Travis, last week, with a big ol' King Crab on board the F/V Cornelia Maria.

All that bravery aside, the best part about Travis, is his enormous heart (oops sorry Trav, secret's out).  He gives his limited time to different charities around the area including a fishing tournament for the physically and mentally challenged, "The Friendliest Catch" which raises money for the Suncoast Charities for Children, "Charlie-palooza", to raise money for the The Angelus, a home for severely handicapped individuals, and "Hugs for Kids" which raises money for kids with cancer.  And at last years book signing we combined efforts to raise money for a good friend of his who was battling cancer.  This month, we are doing another book signing but this time to raise money for the Honor Flight Network,  which I am very excited about.   For anyone who does not know, the Honor Flight flies WW2 vets to Washington, D.C. to visit the War Memorial.  I plan on being a guardian this year for our local chapter.

Yeah, you.  Are you going to be there?
Friday, November 29th,  2013

Last week, as Travis was all the way in Unalaska, Alaska (Dutch Harbor), where on June 3rd, 1942, Japan launched the first ever air attack on North American soil to begin the WW2 Aleutian Campaign, we were working out the details for the next big book signing.  I could not help but be awestruck with the process of life and the way in which things always seem to tie themselves together.
It also made me wonder what would have become of the our continent if it had not been for those courageous American and Canadian soldiers who withstood the worst possible conditions in a deathly cold and desolate place to fight for our freedom.  

Wow.  The profound appreciation of just how connected we all are, no matter where we come from, just got even deeper.  Darn cool, I'd say. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead, Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

     ~Lt. Col. John McCrae (May 3, 1915)

This well known poem was written by physician and poet Lt. Col. McCrae soon after performing the burial service for a friend who died in the second battle of Ypres around  Flanders, Belgium during World War 1.  He was inspired by the way poppies had grown so quickly around the graves of his fallen comrades. 

This poem is what I remember from the Remembrance/Veterans Day ceremonies growing up. Even though I had a grandfather in the war I regrettably, never felt connected to the day.  I could not comprehend the enormity of their efforts and what those efforts meant to the outcome of my life.  Of how different the world would be without their bravery and sacrifices. Give this some reflection, what if we were governed by another ruler's ideals?  Now, that is one scary thought. Therefore, let's all remember that it is because of these brave countrymen we have the freedom to be.  Because of them; we have freedom to vote.  Because of  them; we have freedom of choice. Because of them; we have freedom of voice.  Because of them; we have freedom of rights. Because of them; we have the freedom to simply exist as our continent. I have lived in three different countries and whether you realize it or not, we are darn lucky to live in North America.  And North America is North America because of the battles fought by our selfless servicemen.  Even with the perceived current state of our respective country,  we are still incredibly blessed.  

If my Papa was alive today, I would give him the most heartfelt embrace and tell him how proud I was of his bravery and how grateful I was for the noble sacrifices he made so that we could live a better life. And truly, there are not enough words in existence  to express how deeply this gratitude runs. 

In my opinion, veterans should be remembered every day not just on November 11th (hence me posting this on November 12th... smile). 

Now, have you hugged a veteran today?  If not, you better. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Roy Winebaugh, U.S. Army Medic

One of the most remarkable things that I continue to encounter is the closeness of the world we live in.  What is that saying?  6 degrees of separation?  Somehow, in some way, we are all connected.  This expression has proven itself again on my quest to find veterans who served in the remote Aleutian Islands during WW2.

Last November, as I was planning a local book signing for Deadliest Catch fisherman, Travis Lofland, I discovered a gal I had known for years, Rebecca,  also had family, her Grandpa,  who served in the Alaska in WW2.  And by golly, the good chap is still alive and kicking strong!

Roy Weinbaugh, 1941  Notice the uniform...
it is a WW1 uniform due to a shortage in
WW2 uniforms at that time.

Roy Weinbaugh joined the army in December of 1941. Although, not what he expected to do in the army, he went on to serve as a medic in Alaska from February 1942- 1944.

He began his active duty in Anchorage and as the war progressed he moved on to Adak, Kiska and finally Attu.  The horrific sights he saw on Attu are things that have stayed with him all these years.  After the campaign he remained stationed in Alaska for another year before returning to Atlanta for training.

When the war was over he got his discharge and returned to his home in Arkansas to work on his family farm.  He got married, was blessed with a daughter and eventually moved his family to Michigan, where he still calls home, after accepting a job with General Motors. 

Roy and his beloved wife Ruby who passed in 2009.  

These days you can find 95 year old Roy joyously living in an independent retirement village where he spends his days socializing in different ways. Whether it is at a ballgame, berry picking or sharing smiles with ailing church members, he somehow finds a way to love the life he lives.   What an inspiration!

A youthful and handsome Roy at 94.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ebb and Flow

As I sat at the beach one morning contemplating how to start this come-back post it had occurred to me that any excuse I have sounds pathetic in comparison to the sacrifices the people and families that I write about endured.  Sacrifices that allow us the life of freedoms that we enjoy today.    

It is true that the natural the ebb and flow of life shifts our focus to different things when needed.  Over the last year I have chosen to place my heart and energies into a different and unexpected, but important, area.  But as of late, I have felt drawn to return to the blog.  To continue where I had left off, by honoring those who served with my Papa in Alaska during World War 2.  A while back, I had the privilege of having a retired Korean Air Force gunner as my client. The words he shared with me during our conversation re-ignited my deep desire to tell the stories of those that served.  The most wonderful thing is, the more I thought about my next post, the more people began to contact me with their loved ones stories.  The law of attraction in action is a beautiful thing.  

This mornings inspiration.

If you could have read one of my last Facebook status's, I was wishing that I could either multiply myself or add an additional 24 hours in a day to fit it all in.  I suppose that is one of life's great challenges- how to find B-A-L-A-N-C-E.  Alas, since cloning myself nor recreating Father Time is an option, I will figure out a way to find time for the several things that are dear to my heart.  I have to,  for I miss writing this blog terribly and it is because of these brave chaps I am able to write at all. 

Ok, here goes... re-start TAKE TWO... (clap).  

This picture of my Papa was graciously sent to me last week from Bob Hofland. 
 His uncle,  F/L George Talbot Schwalm and my Grandfather graduated 
together out of No.2, S.F.T.S. in Uplands, Ontario, October 1941. 
Post graduation, both joined the 111F Squadron and were stationed in Alaska. 
Watch for F/L Schwalm's story in an upcoming post.   

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

As Time Goes By...

It is amazing how time flies by.  It seems like just yesterday when I was standing up at the podium paying my respects to those who serve for our freedom.  Well, that was two months ago.  Wow.  Life is busy.  Especially as a single parent of a competitive softball player.  I believe the most used word in our vocabulary these days is "hurry".  The exact opposite of how I like to live my life.  It is no wonder why my daughter runs so fast.

So what else have I been up to?   Lots.  And even though I have not posted anything I have many stories brewing and have also made some great contacts over the last few months. Please keep checking back as I start to add these stories to the site. 

Mark Kotlovker, son of Aleutian Island WW2 vet Jack Kotlovker has been incredibly patient with my slow movement.  I see him regularly at my daughters school.  Many months ago he had given me over one hundred photos of his Fathers time in Alaska.  It has been my top priority to create an electronic library of his fathers treasured wartime photos.  I am happy to say that after several hours and one, now dysfunctional,  memory card,  the project is finished.   What a gift those were.  Thank you Mark.  Below are some of my favorite ones. 

Wartime Thimble Theater.
Some kind of Russian sign.  I am guessing this must have been around the Nome area

The communications men at work on a pole.

Shoveling out the Bank of Kodiak.

Three Sisters mountains covered in white.

Jack outside his quarters.

Quonset Hut.

Temporary relief in a drink.
Communications at work.

His abode atop Signal Hill. They called it the Fubar Reservation.

Looking east atop Signal Hill.

Jack.  What a great smile!

To read more about Jack's story click here.  It appears that I have quite a few favorites.  They are all so fascinating.  Stay tuned as I will share the rest of them on another day...