Chapter meetings were suspended from March 2020 until July 2021, due to Covid-19. However, monthly emails were sent to the Chapter’s e-list to profile local aeronautical items of interest and keep the Chapter’s e-list subscribers engaged. The Chapter also offered a small library of aeronautical history DVDs for loan to the e-list subscribers, with transmission and returns conducted via the USPS.
Another Chapter activity that Covid-19 did not prevent was a “Hero” recognition project. From the Memorial Day holiday through the 4th of July, the Mathews County Rotary Club staged a “Flags for Heroes” display (see photo) that allowed individuals/groups to recognize their heroes by sponsoring a flag among a field of large American Flags located on Main Street. A beautiful and patriotic spectacle. On behalf of our Northern Neck-Middle Peninsula VAHS Chapter, using private funds (not VAHS or Chapter funds), one of the flags was dedicated in honor of Mathews residents Al and Carolyn Carpenter. Al was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, and was a “guest” in the “Hanoi Hilton” for well over 6 years. It takes no imagination at all to appreciate that when one of our military serves time as a POW (prisoner of war) their whole family pays the toll.
While it is difficult to relate those lines above, it is gratifying to note that Al returned home to build a life where he began celebrating two anniversaries with Carolyn in March each year—the second being the date of his return from Vietnam. Many in the NN-MP Chapter will recall seeing Al at our Chapter meetings, and hearing about his years piloting ultralights and his support of the Mathews Sherriff’s Department operations with his twin-engine Air Cam. Among many other personal aviation projects Al has flown the Dragon Run, a unique forested swamp that bisects the Middle Peninsula and forms the headwaters of the pristine Piankatank River. The collaborative flight allowed Teta Kain (a long-time active member of the Friends of Dragon Run) to collect one-of-a-kind aerial photos of this nearly inaccessible ecological gem. As we resume our regular Chapter meetings we hope to persuade Al to provide a future program with Teta Kain, showing and telling us about their unique flight capturing the beauty and the mystery of the Dragon Run.
As we embark on our Chapter’s restart, we hope to rebuild quickly. After a sixteen-month hiatus, attendance was predictably light but enthusiastic at the first post-Covid meeting. On July 15, 2021 we featured a DVD about Russian-American Igor Sikorsky and his pioneering designs in rotor-craft, fixed-wing aircraft and his signature innovative flying boats. Future programs are now being planned, to include NOVA’s recent release of the “Great Electric Airplane Race,” and a presentation that will focus on the military aviators’ families’ experience and perspectives, and more.
In closing, I want to invite all readers to join me in supporting the VAHS at the Sustaining Members level. This enhanced tier of membership provides critical resources to the VAHS at a time when the organization is working hard to survive and fulfill its vision: “… [the] preservation, education and appreciation of Virginia air and space history for current and future generations.” Please note: While the last issue of Virginia Eagles omitted my name from the Sustaining Members list (located just inside the front cover) I have been and remain a Sustaining Member and the current issue will restore those names inadvertently left out.
VAHS Contact Info: email—email@example.com; on the web—VirginiaAviationHistory.org; and, phone—(540) 376-3265