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Not your average Joe…

Posted by on September 15, 2016

Chief Joseph R. Zeller, a veteran of World War II. I’m proud to have met him and listened to some of his stories. History, taught by one who has made it.  

IT’S THE PEOPLE. It’s the people I meet on our Great American Adventure. They are the ones who make our Journey special. The places and parks and cities and attractions are way fun. But it’s the people I want to meet. Here’s Joe Zeller, a retired Veteran of World War II.  Still a “regular guy” at age 96. I didn’t get his whole story, but I’ve decided to write a little about him and the emotions we shared this morning at breakfast.

MEET CHIEF JOE ZELLER. I met Joe this morning. In fact we had breakfast together. Joe is in town at a reunion, to celebrate his ship and his shipmates  And victory at the conclusion of World War II. There is a convention here, and Joe and his buddies comprise a small, elite group. They are men from “the  Greatest Generation.” Most have passed. I’m happy I was able to meet and talk with Joe. I’m honored to have had the chance to shake hands with a man who served our country during the War, even during a fire at sea, which is a sailor’s worst fear.

                                                                                                                                                                rangerUSS RANGER.  Joe served on the USS Ranger. During the second world war, Ranger was the first ship in the United States Navy to be designed and built from the keel up as an  aircraft carrier.  Ranger was a relatively small ship, closer in size and displacement to the first US carrier,Langley, than later ships. An island superstructure was not included in the original design, but was added after completion. Deemed too slow for use with the Pacific Fleet’s carrier task forces, the ship spent most of the war in the Atlantic Ocean. Ranger saw combat in that theater and provided air support for Operation Torch. In October 1943, she fought in Operation Leader, air attacks on German shipping off Norway. The ship was sold for scrap in 1947.

MAY I JOIN YOU? I’d noticed some flags and a picture of a Navy ship in the lobby of the hotel where I met an attorney friend this morning. But I didn’t “put it together” until a bit later. There was a gathering of a few men who served on the Ranger during the War. That’s when I saw Mr. Zeller, sitting by himself and having a cup of coffee. No way was I going to let that continue!





















THANK YOU, JOE. “Thank you for your service to our country.”  My meeting with you hearkens back memories of my own father and his time aboard the USS Hopkins during the War. During November of 2014 when Florence and I were in the Texas Hill Country, we visited the National  Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. It is the only institution in the United States dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific and Asiatic Theaters in World War II. Its stated mission is to honor the eight million Americans who served in the war against Japan and the more than 100,000 who gave their lives. The belief is that the best way to honor them is to truthfully and respectfully tell the story of their struggles, sacrifices and triumphs so future generations may learn the price of freedom.


boat2DIFFERENT MEN. SAME SACRIFICES. SAME WAR. Thank you, Joe and Dad, for your service and for your sacrifices. We’re able to enjoy freedom because of what you did for us. You are appreciated and respected. Your deeds and your service will never be forgotten.

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I’ll continue my story next time.



4 Responses to Not your average Joe…

  1. Jon York

    Nice post.

  2. Greg Alford

    Thank you, sir. And thank you for your service as an aviator in the Vietnam conflict. Captain York, I salute you. I hope our paths will cross again soon. Let’s make it happen.

  3. John Smyth

    And thank you Greg for taking us through some of the byways of America both pictorially and narratively.

  4. Greg Alford

    And John, you just never know when the Alfords’ bus might be in your neighborhood. We sure enjoyed ourselves the last time we were your guests.

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