Hundreds of K-5 students at Oakridge Elementary School packed 200 gift boxes to seamen and Marines serving on the USS Arlington.
The boxes sent to those aboard the 684-foot-long amphibious transport ship, named after Arlington County in memory of those who lost their lives here on 9/11, included handwritten cards as well as candy, chips, crackers, chewing gum, toothbrushes, challenge coins, ear plugs and other items.
It’s part of an effort to ensure an ongoing relationship between the men and women who serve on the USS Arlington and the residents of the county for which it is named.
Spearheading that effort is the USS Arlington Community Alliance, headed by retired Arlington County Police Department captain Kevin Reardon, who is president, and Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), who is vice president.
Reardon, who happened to know Lynne Wright, the Oakridge principal, brought to her the idea of the gift packages.
“It’s the little things that keep us in contact with the ship,” says Reardon. “And this is one of those things.”
Donated goods came from Arlington-based firms, including Nestlé (200 bags of candy), and were sorted and packed by students at the end of the school year and transported to the ship.
Running their hands through hundreds of pounds of temptation must have been a challenge for the children, right? Oh, you’d be wrong.
“The students have been practicing the intentionality of being kind to each other and members of our community,” Wright says. “Creating care packages for individuals on the USS Arlington was a natural extension of being kind to others.”
“We have been fortunate to have partnered with the USS Arlington for several years,” she adds. “Additionally, we have many military families in our Oakridge community, and this year we became a [Virginia Department of Education] Purple Star-designated school and have focused on better serving the military-connected child.”
Honoring Arlington goes both ways. Reardon says the ship’s main passageway, traditionally called Broadway, is named Columbia Pike. Arlington street signs and Pentagon shapes abound.
“The sailors are constantly reminded of why the ship was named ‘Arlington,'” he says. Those same sailors often visit Oakridge Elementary when they are in the area for the annual 9/11 memorial 5K race — which is now in its 20th year.
Arlington is currently renovating the Bozman Government Center at Courthouse and the new lobby of county government headquarters, when it opens, will have an exhibit of USS Arlington artifacts and video displays, as well as a sizable model of the ship.
Reardon, for one, will be happy when the pandemic-delayed renovations are complete.
“There are not too many people with a six-and-half-foot ship model sitting in their parking spot in their garage,” he says with a laugh.
And this is not the last those aboard the Arlington will hear from Oakridge kids.
“Generously building care packages for the USS Arlington was an outstanding opportunity to bring everyone together through kindness and care for our community,” Principal Wright says. “When school reopens, I know the school community will be eager to build more care packages for the USS Arlington.”
The $1.6 billion vessel, commissioned in 2013, is one of three named for locations where citizens were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, along with the USS New York and the USS Somerset.
‘BLM’ on Fairlington Bridge Restored — Residents of the Fairlington area used ties to restore a Black Lives Matters message on the bridge over I-395 over the weekend. The letters “BLM” had previously been placed on the bridge’s fence but later removed by an unknown party. Also this weekend, below the BLM letters someone scrawled “Trump 2020,” but that was later covered and “Black Lives Matter” written over it in chalk. [Twitter]
ACPD Details De-Escalation Training — “In response to community questions, ACPD has created this fact sheet highlighting how we train officers to de-escalate incidents and safely resolve situations.” [Twitter]
Update to Jim Pebley Obit — Per an email from former county treasurer Frank O’Leary: “You will be pleased to hear that, due to the actions of former commanders of our County’s namesake ship, it appears that Commander Pebley’s ashes will be spread at sea by the USS ARLINGTON. This is a singular honor and reflects the high respect the Navy feels for Jim. Nothing less than he deserves. There is an old adage, ‘The Navy takes care of its own.’ Perhaps, the same can be said of Arlington.”
Candidates on the Arts — “Arlington County voters will go to the polls on July 7 to determine who will fill the County Board seat of the late Erik Gutshall. In order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County, Embracing Arlington Arts sent out a questionnaire for the three candidates to complete covering several issues pertaining to the arts in Arlington.” [Press Release, Embracing Arlington Arts]
TTT Now Serving Unlimited Weekend Brunch — “There’s a new all-you-can eat brunch in town. TTT in Clarendon, which stands for Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, has joined its Street Guys Hospitality brethren, including beloved Ambar, in offering unlimited eats on weekend mornings.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Reminder: Metro Stations Back Open — “Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.” [ARLnow]
Nearby: Fairfax Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]
Long-time Arlington civic activist Jim Pebley died earlier this week after a battle with cancer.
A Navy veteran, Pebley was best known recently for his close involvement in the festivities around the naming of the USS Arlington. We interviewed him about that and other community issues in 2018.
Pebley was an early booster of ARLnow, providing advice and patiently explaining some of the ins-and-outs of how the county works in our first few months. We greatly appreciate his support, encouragement and wise counsel.
Kevin Reardon and former County Treasurer Frank O’Leary, who both worked with Pebley on the USS Arlington Community Alliance, penned the following obituary for their friend.
Jim Pebley passed away Tuesday afternoon, June 23rd in Wake Forest, North Carolina, after a heroic twenty-month battle with cancer. He was 69 years old. Commander James Pebley, USN completed his naval service while stationed at the Pentagon in the late 1980’s. He and his wife Cecile, also a retired naval commander, decided to reside in Arlington on 16th Street North. Jim immediately transferred his oath of service to his “Country” to service to his “County.”
Over the ensuing more than quarter century, Jim’s activities ranged from addressing the needs of Reagan National Airport, highway safety, ensuring pure drinking water, and innumerable other projects, including commissions such as: County Fiscal Affairs, Emergency Preparedness, and County Planning. He may have been best known for his involvement in “Backyards Not Barnyards,” a group that successfully fought off efforts to loosen restrictions on chicken-raising in Arlington.
Most importantly, he was a driving force in expressing citizen concerns and seeing that they were addressed by the County government. Jim, perhaps more than any other Arlingtonian, embodied and furthered the ideals and goals of the Arlington Civic Federation.
Politically, Jim was a loyal member of the Arlington County Republican Committee. His dedication to the well-being of Arlington County, however, transcended party politics. Jim never served as an elected official, but when he called upon elected officials, they listened attentively to what he had to say and often followed his advice. In 2017, he was honored by the County Board for his services in a public session.
In 2012, Jim was asked by the Navy League to Chair the local Commissioning Committee for the USS ARLINGTON. Our County’s namesake ship was being created to honor those who died at the Pentagon on 9-11 and those who so courageously responded to the crisis. (A girder from the Pentagon was incorporated into the ship’s keel.) Under Jim’s inspired leadership, our committee raised $438,000, far exceeding the needs of the Navy League. The excess funds were used primarily to create a “Tribute Room,” a small museum behind the bridge of the ship, reflecting the events at the Pentagon on 9-11. Since 2013, this very special room, unique to our ship, has been visited by guests at many ports of call and proclaims Arlington’s story to the world.
In 2013, Jim asked a number of us on the Committee to join with him in creating the USS ARLINGTON Community Alliance to maintain a continuing relationship between our community — our ship — its captain – and its crew. Since then we have built bridges between Arlington’s schools and our ship and hosted an annual 9-11 event (the ship’s schedule permitting) at Firehouse 5 where the public is invited to meet, greet, and have lunch with those who so honorably represent our community, while serving on our ship. Despite his moving to North Carolina in 2017 and his ensuing illness, Jim remained very active in all of this.
As a measure of his dedication, two weeks ago, Jim provided a generous contribution of $10,000 to the Arlington Historical Society to provide for the installation of a model of the USS ARLINGTON in the atrium of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, the site of our local government. (Those who wish to honor Jim’s memory may send their contribution to: The Arlington Historical Society, 9-11 Fund, P.O. Box 100402, Arlington, Virginia 22210-3402.)
There is so much more to say about Jim. He was wise, eternally positive and optimistic, charismatic, and extraordinarily generous both financially and in spirit. He was a great leader who always assumed responsibility for any mishap that might arise — even when it was not truly his fault. He never once complained about his illness or the excruciating pain it imposed. He fought the good fight to the end and we who knew and loved him will greatly miss him.
Jim had two final wishes. First, given the Coronavirus and the threat it poses at public gatherings, he wanted no memorial service. Second, he requested that his ashes be scattered at sea by the US Navy. Both these wishes will be granted. BRAVO ZULU! Commander – well done – and Godspeed.
The USS Arlington, named for the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is soon bound for its second overseas deployment.
The U.S. Navy vessel is currently at sea preparing for the deployment, away from its base at Naval Station Norfolk, according to a news release. The ship is one of three named for the victims of 9/11, and was commissioned back in 2013.
Members of the county’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee visited the ship in Norfolk two weeks ago before it went out to sea, in order to meet with its commander, Navy Capt. Todd Marzano. According to the county, “the group discussed opportunities for greater interaction with Arlingtonians, both virtual and in-person.”
They settled on forming a new partnership where a county school will “adopt” the ship, with students getting a chance to stay in regular communication with its crew. The group picked Oakridge Elementary School as the first school to participate in the program, and the county says “work is underway to plan the first activities.”
A small team of the ship’s crew members not set to be deployed also recently traveled to the county to run in this past Saturday’s Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K.
The USS Arlington has a crew of 360 sailors, and is one of the Navy’s 11 San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Jonathan Blyth, a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve who spent the last nine months overseas, promised his son he’d be home by the time school let out.
Blyth made it home today (Tuesday), with one day to spare.
He arranged to surprise his son, David, just before class let out at Arlington Science Focus School. Staff led the second grader away from the room briefly, giving his dad some time to sneak in and wait for David to return.
“I was very shocked,” David Blyth told ARLnow. “I was just expecting books.”
Jonathan Blyth says seeing his son again after nearly a year apart “gives you a greater appreciation of the United States of America,” particularly because this was his first deployment.
He was stationed at NATO’s Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan for the last seven months, so he finds himself appreciating even the little things like “the ability to walk and be outside.”
“It’s amazing to be back,” Blyth said. “It’s great to be back.”
He brought with him a preserved scorpion — David’s verdict: “It’s creepy looking,” but he still showed it off to his classmates — as well as a Washington Nationals baseball cap.
David will head back to school for his last day of class tomorrow (Wednesday), then the family will take off for a lengthy summer vacation.
“I promised him if he did well in school, he’d get a trip to Disney World,” Jonathan Blyth said.
Per Student Spending Questioned — Arlington Public Schools is again being questioned about why it has the highest per-student costs — $18,957 — of any suburban D.C. jurisdiction. Fairfax County, the largest school system in the state, has a per-student cost of $14,432. [InsideNova]
Woman’s Tireless TSA Protest — Alyssa Bermudez, a former Army staff sergeant and Bronze Star recipient, has been tirelessly protesting in front of Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Pentagon City, claiming that she was sexually harassed and fired for complaining about it. Other complaints and a lawsuit point to an alleged culture of harassment within the agency. [Washington Post]
ACPD Officers Meet Shaq — NBA great Shaquille O’Neal visited with D.C. area police yesterday on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs. Several ACPD officers were photographed with the 7’1″ O’Neal. [Twitter, Twitter]
AFAC Needs New Van — The Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeking donations to help it buy a new cargo van, after one of its old vans broke down while on a grocery run. [Fox 5, AFAC]
LiveSafe Launches Navy Pilot Program — Arlington-based startup LiveSafe has launched a six-month pilot program with a big client: the U.S. Navy. LiveSafe’s app will be used by sailors in Hampton Roads, Va. and in Rota, Spain “in an effort to prevent sexual assaults and combat other destructive behaviors before they happen.” [Stars and Stripes]
Arlington Man Tweets Hillary Sightings — Arlingtonian Adam Parkhomenko, a long-time Hillary Clinton aide and booster, is helping grieving Democrats by turning the former presidential candidate into a “wandering folk hero.” He’s doing so via a social media account that keeps track of photos of Clinton “in the wild” since she lost the election. [Vanity Fair]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Car on Fire Spotted Driving Down Street — Yesterday evening, an Arlington County Fire Department unit radioed dispatch to report that they had just seen a car with flames visible from the engine compartment drive past them on Carlin Springs Road, its driver oblivious to the fire. The fire engine was able to turn around, catch up with the driver near the intersection of Wilson and Glebe, pull the car over and extinguish the flames. [Twitter, Twitter]
Wrong Man on Iwo Jima Memorial? — The Marine Corps is investigating claims that a Navy corpsman identified as one of the men who raised the flag in a moment depicted by Arlington’s Iwo Jima Memorial was not, in fact, in the original photo. [USA Today, Associated Press, New York Times]
USS Arlington Returns Home — The sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington have returned to Norfolk after a seven-month overseas deployment assisting in the fight against ISIS. [Marine Corps Times, WAVY]
Former Top Federal IT Official Dies — Greg Ambrose, who had served in senior information technology posts at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, died early Tuesday morning. Ambrose took his own life at a Rosslyn condominium after posting on Facebook about a woman who had left him for another man. [FCW, Twitter]
Arlington, Virginia Tech Join ‘Smart City’ Network — “Virginia Tech and Arlington County have been accepted into the MetroLab Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships that works to bring data, analytics and innovation to local government.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
A suspicious substance in a package caused a scare at a government facility in the 700 block of S. Courthouse Road.
A hazmat team from the Arlington County Fire Department responded to the call of a package in the mail room at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Arlington that reportedly contained a light colored powdery or crystal-type substance. The Arlington County Police Department was also at the scene to offer support.
There was a brief, partial evacuation of the facility while investigators examined the substance. According to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl, the substance has since been found to be non-hazardous and crews have cleared the scene.
According to Karl, although the substance is not hazardous, the case will be taken over by Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) for further investigation.
The new USS Arlington (LPD 24) was commissioned in Norfolk on Saturday, before a crowd of more than 5,000 people.
The ship was named in honor of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Military brass and members of the ship’s crew were joined at the ceremony by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Jim Moran, state legislators, all five Arlington County Board members, Arlington law enforcement officers and firefighters who responded on 9/11, and family members of 9/11 victims.
Joyce Rumsfeld, the ship’s sponsor and the wife of the former defense secretary, gave the final word for the ship’s crew of sailors and Marines to board the Arlington.
“Man our ship, bring her to life,” Rumsfeld said as more than 100 men and women ran up the ship’s brow and manned the rails to render a salute.
The USS Arlington was built by Huntington-Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss. Her keel was laid on May 26, 2008 and she was delivered to the Navy on Dec. 7, 2012.
The Arlington is one of three 9/11 commemorative ships, including the USS New York and USS Somerset. The ships are San Antonio class amphibious dock ships, capable of transporting nearly 1,200 sailors and Marines, plus helicopters and landing craft, to hotspots around the world.
The ship’s expected service life is 40 years.
“LPD 24 bears a name of great significance to our Navy and Marine Corps team,” the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, said in a statement. “LPD 24 will forever represent the courage, devotion and teamwork that characterized our military and first responders on that modern day of infamy.”
There were two ships named USS Arlington before LPD 24: a World War II-era cargo ship and a Vietnam War-era communications ship. A crew member from the Vietnam-era ship was on hand to help forge “a strong bond” between the crews of the current and the previous USS Arlington.
NBC 4 and the Sun Gazette have additional coverage of the commissioning. The USS Arlington Commissioning Committee is still trying to raise some $80,000 to pay for a 9/11 Tribute Room on the ship, NBC 4 reported.
Photos courtesy U.S. Navy
More on the Arlington Goat Prank — The Navy has confirmed that Bill the Goat, the U.S. Naval Academy mascot, was the goat that was found tied up in a median at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street, near the Pentagon, this past weekend. The goat was “recovered Saturday morning in good condition.” The Army-Navy football game is Dec. 8 and a Navy spokeswoman noted: “Bill the Goat has been a part of our 10-game winning streak against Army, so we are glad to have him back before the big game next week.” [Navy Times]
Arlington GOP Counts Accomplishments — Even though Republican candidates did not win a single race in Arlington, members of the Arlington County Republican Committee are tallying some small victories. “We kept Arlington moving toward more common-sense policies,” said Matt Wavro, this year’s GOP County Board candidate. [Sun Gazette]
‘Shark Tank’ Charity Pitch Event — Twenty entrepreneurs from around Virginia will have a chance to pitch their business startup ideas to panel of business leaders and investors in Arlington this morning. The Shark Tank-like pitch competition will help raise money for charity. The event is taking place at the Ballston offices of Arlington Economic Development, but tickets are no longer available. [Eventbrite]
Officials Prepare for USS Arlington Commissioning — Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes, county treasurer Frank O’Leary and other local leaders traveled to Norfolk on Wednesday to meet with Navy officials to plan for the commissioning of the USS Arlington, a new amphibious transport ship named after the county. The commissioning ceremony is currently planned for April 2013. [Sun Gazette]
José Andrés Food Truck Coming to Arlington — Famed local chef José Andrés (of Jaleo fame) is bringing his new food truck venture in Arlington. The “Pepe” food truck is expanding its service area from the District to Montgomery County and Arlington. The truck serves a rotating selection of flautas — a type of Spanish sandwich. [Huff Post DC]
Arlington Scores Above Average, Below Fairfax on SATs — Arlington Public Schools students in the class of 2012 scored an average of 1641 (out of 2400) on the SATs. That score is above the national average of 1498 and above the state average of 1517, but slightly below the Fairfax County average of 1654. [Patch]
Pentagon Exhibit Seeking Veteran Artists — An organization called the Veteran Artist Program is seeking art submissions from military veterans for a new veteran art exhibit at the Pentagon. Organizers told ARLnow.com that they’ve received numerous submissions from around the county, but not many from the Northern Virginia area. The entry deadline is Oct. 30. [Veteran Artist Program]
Clarendon Salon to Hold Grand Opening — Casal’s de Spa and Salon has been open at 3033 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon since June, but the business will be holding its official “grand opening” ceremony this weekend. The non-tipping salon will be offering food, libations, and music from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann