I recently had an opportunity to recon a potential location for one of the Hereoes on the Water Tidewater Chapter events. Retired Captain Fred Olds suggested a trip up to Cheatham Annex near Yorktown, Va to look at a place that he was very familiar with. His descriptions of the area made me want to check it out, and believe me he was spot on. Beautiful trees lined the banks of the two bass filled lakes. Across the road from Lake Cheatham was Queen’s Creek near the point where it met the York River.
This place is absolutely beautiful! So serene, the surroundings are like a story book. Fresh air, chirping songbirds and squawking waterfowl, and the splash of top feeding bass make you feel as if you are in a far away paradise. Occasionally, you will see and hear a boat heading along Queen’s Creek, but otherwise the air is quiet and peaceful with an occasional breeze blowing through the trees. The perfect place to relax and enjoy a day on the water.
I knew that photos might only be able to capture a glimpse of the beauty and not the serenity of this place. I hope this short video might give a sense of the surroundings and what it might feel like to spend a night in one of the cabin onsite.
My day with Captain Olds was time well spent on so many different levels. Seeing Cheatham Annex was only the start. I had the privilege to spend the day with someone whose history on the U.S. Navy reads like a best seller. I was honored to spend the day with him, and I can tell you that he is someone that served our nation with distinction. He shared with me stories of his experiences as a Navy Captain and Commodore as well as those after his retirement. I was taken away by his accounts of navigational chess matches with the Soviet Navy, his time in Viet Nam, his training roles in both Quantico and teaching navigational skills to some of our natio’s finest warriors, and of being awarded the Bronze Star. I cannot express how interesting his stories were to hear and how honored I was to be in his company.
Our day continued after I stated to him that you can live somewhere most of your life and still only see a small part of it. He asked if I had ever visited the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va. It was located along our path back home, so we briefly stopped I to take a break. After quickly gaining permission for entry, he showed me a few of the highlights and told me of many more that I should see if I come back. I could see his pride on his face as he pointed out naval artifacts, and I could see that this was a place that was very special to him.
As if my day wasn’t already complete, my new friend also told me stories of his brother. Both Fred and his brother Robin made considerable contributions while serving our nation. Take time to read about Brig, Gen. Robin Olds . I was lucky enough to hear several storiesabout this great American aviator. Fred even had numerous copies of drawings and cartoons that his brother had made to pass the time and to document snippets of history. The quality of these drawings and the stories behind them were wonderful.
Our conversations revealed that Captain Olds and his family actually lived only 4-5 houses down the street from me many years ago. It’s funny that I actually remember back when I was about the age of nine, the Olds’ family with their very young children. Honestly, I had wondered through the years what had come of them. Funny how small the world is and that our paths would cross again.
My day concluded with saying a fond goodbye to someone that I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with. I honestly cannot wait until another opportunity presents itself to do it again. It is moments like these that Heroes on the Water has given me. The veterans that we serve, the volunteers, and donors that we meet each day bring something special to our encounters. We all have our stories to share, but it’s the stories that make us stop…and reflect…and appreciate each other. What might seem, at first, as a simple drive to an unfamiliar location just might bring you to a place where you can escape your surroundings and give you a sense of what else is out there.
Today was a good day.