(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]
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
Streetcar Video Came at a Cost — An Arlington County-produced video that makes the case for the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar lines cost the county $3,400. Arlington officials greenlit the video because they “felt there was a general ‘lack of public awareness and education'” about the streetcar. [Washington Examiner]
Beef ‘O’ Brady Eyes Arlington — The Florida-based Beef ‘O’ Brady chain of sports bars/restaurants is apparently looking to open in Arlington. Arlington is a “key component to the company’s growth strategy in Virginia,” according to a press release. “While there’s definitely a market for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in the Arlington market, we’re taking a careful approach to finding a franchise partner with business savvy, tenacity and a readiness to reinvest in the communities they serve,” said James Walker, Chief Development Officer of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, in a statement. “ [Restaurant News Release]
Donations Sought for USS Arlington Commissioning — The commissioning of the USS Arlington, a new Navy transport ship, is six months away. The USS Arlington Commissioning Committee is now seeking donations to help support the commissioning ceremony and to build a “tribute room” within the new ship. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Following word last week that ports outside of Virginia were being considered for the commissioning, the delegation wrote a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, saying that it would a “mistake” to commission the Arlington anywhere other than Commonwealth.
“We applaud the Navy’s responsiveness and decision to commission the USS Arlington in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the delegation said in a statement today. “Commissioning the ship in Virginia is the appropriate way to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the thousands of local police officers, fire fighters, Pentagon employees, emergency first responders and all who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.”
The delegation includes Rep. Jim Moran, Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner and other Virginia lawmakers.
Training Day — U.S. Navy Lt. Christine Flood, an Arlington native, trains Afghan National Army medics on basic nursing skills, infectious disease control and hospital trauma procedures at the Kandahar Regional Medical Hospital on June 5. [U.S. Army]
House Fire in Leeway-Overlee — A fire broke out in the back of a house on the 5500 block of 24th Street N. on Sunday afternoon, possibly due to a lightning strike. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it spread to other parts of the structure.
Streetcar Supporters Meet Tonight — The Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition will meet tonight at Bangkok 54 (2919 Columbia Pike) to discuss “the development impacts of streetcar projects in the Washington-Metropolitan region,” including the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The discussion is being called “If you build it, they will come.” [Alexandria Times]
Crystal City BID Extended — The Crystal City Business Improvement District has been renewed. The BID, which sponsors events and performs other activities designed to boost the image of Crystal City while bringing more visitors to the neighborhood, was approaching the end of its original five-year sunset provision. The County Board voted to renew the BID in perpetuity, with a staff review in five years. The BID is funded by a tax surcharge on businesses within Crystal City. [Sun Gazette]
Military Man Becomes Priest — The Sun Gazette profiles Luke Dundon, one of the three new priests in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Dundon is a Bishop O’Connell and a Naval Academy graduate, as well as an avid marathoner. [Sun Gazette]
Military photo by Sgt. Richard Andrade
“We have been informed that the Navy is considering commissioning the USS Arlington at several ports outside of the Commonwealth,” the delegation wrote in a letter sent today to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “Given that the ship is named to honor the vital role Virginia played in responding to the attacks of September 11th, we believe it would be a mistake to commission the USS Arlington at any location outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The bipartisan letter was signed by Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Eric Cantor and the rest of the Virginia delegation. Gov. Bob McDonnell has also been lobbying for the commissioning to be held in Norfolk, where the ship will be homeported.
The Arlington, an amphibious transport dock ship, was christened at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. in March. The USS New York, another San Antonio-class ship named following the Sept. 11th attacks, was commissioned in New York City in 2009.
Federal prosecutors say Torrez is responsible for the 2009 death of Amanda Snell, a 20-year-old Navy intelligence specialist who was found dead in her Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall barracks two years ago.
Torrez is currently serving five consecutive life sentences for the abduction of two Arlington women and the abduction and brutal rape of another in February 2010. Arlington prosecutor Theo Stamos called Torrez a “predator” during his sentencing. Now he’s being charged with first degree murder in Snell’s death.
“Today, we are charging Jorge Torrez with murdering a young Navy Petty Officer in her barracks,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “This indictment is the result of extreme dedication by NCIS and the Arlington County Police Department to follow every lead possible to bring the person responsible for Amanda’s murder to justice.”
Snell’s mother told the Washington Examiner that she is hoping the case will provide some closure.
“I’m waiting until this is all over and I actually find out why,” Cynthia Snell told the paper.
Torrez has also been linked via DNA to a 2005 double homicide outside Chicago, but has yet to be charged in the case.