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A Returned Navy Dress Blue Uniform

Discussion in 'Uniforms, Personal Gear (Kit) and Accessories' started by andrwoo, Feb 15, 2015.

  1. andrwoo

    andrwoo New Member

    Jan 16, 2015
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    Read this article today about a Navy dress blue uniform returned the the grand kids. A nice read and the lady seemed very happy to receive the uniform. Article from USA Today by Amy B Wang, The Arizona Republic

    TUCSON — Illinois residents Penny and David Welch had scheduled a getaway to Arizona for February. It would be a regular trip to visit some of David's relatives in the Tucson area — and also a welcome escape from the winter chill of their Sugar Grove home, about an hour west of Chicago.
    Shortly after they booked their trip, the Welches' nephew called them to say someone in Arizona had found his grandfather's old Navy uniform in a thrift store.
    Penny Welch, 60, thought of her father, LeRoy James Vacovsky. In April 1943, Vacovsky had enlisted in the Navy at age 17½, the earliest he possibly could. Until 1946, he served as an aviation technician for planes that delivered medical supplies and transported wounded soldiers in World War II.

    “But with somebody's name in it, we felt an obligation to figure out who it belonged to.” Mark Kelly, former Navy captain

    It had been, she said, a great joy for him — and by extension a great source of pride for her as well. Growing up in the '60s, Penny took to wearing his Navy peacoat around. She saved all of his medals and bars and other keepsakes; the guest room in their home is dedicated to her father's pictures and memorabilia.
    "He was my buddy," she said. "I just looked up to him so much."
    About a decade ago, Penny Welch moved both of her parents to be closer to her. As they packed her parents' belongings, she searched for her father's Navy uniform, but never found it.

    How the uniform ended up in Arizona is a mystery, but it was Gloria Giffords who discovered it in a thrift shop about seven years ago. It was not unusual, her family would say later, for her to buy random gifts, and on this occasion she thought the uniform — in surprisingly good condition — would be perfect for her daughter, Gabrielle, who had just married a former Navy captain by the name of Mark Kelly.

    Kelly, who served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, recognized it right away as a World War II-era uniform. He also noticed a name stitched inside both the pants and the jacket: "L.R. Vacovsky."
    If it had no name in it, sure, he would have kept it, Kelly said.
    "But with somebody's name in it, we felt an obligation to figure out who it belonged to."

    LeRoy James Vacovsky served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946. His old uniform was found by Gabrielle Giffords’ mother at a thrift store, with "L.R. Vacovsky" sewn into the uniform. Vacovsky's daughter Penny Welch holds a photo of her father in the uniform. (Photo: Amy B Wang, The Arizona Republic)

    An Internet search at the time turned up no solid leads. The uniform disappeared again — into a box or closet, perhaps — and years passed. Recently, the uniform resurfaced in their new Tucson home. Kelly searched for "L.R. Vacovsky" again on the Internet and came upon the man's obituary, along with a list of relatives' names. He looked up each one until, one day in January, he was able to find contact information for a grandson in Illinois. He made a call.
    "I think I was just in shock," Penny Welch said, of hearing that her father's uniform had been found. They have no idea how it ended up in Arizona, where her side of the family has no relatives. "My heart was just full of joy to think we actually did have that." Because of a slight misunderstanding, she did not know the uniform was in the hands of arguably the most famous couple in Arizona until days before she boarded a plane.

    “Just the fact that we're taking this uniform home on that day. It's going to be a very special day.” Penny Welch, on returning to Illinois with her father's Navy uniform

    "My nephew talked to him," Penny Welch said. "He did not realize — he thought it was a friend of Kelly's. And so, until Sunday night, that's what I thought. Then Mark Kelly called me and said, 'No, it's me, and it's Gabby.' And it's like, 'Oh, my goodness,' you know?"

    The Welches left Chicago on Thursday morning. By midday Friday, they were nestled in Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords' sunny central Tucson living room, listening to Kelly recount how the uniform had come to be with them.
    Giffords clutched Penny's hand as she got emotional describing her father's life.
    "We're excited to give this to you," Kelly said. "My grandfather served in the Navy as well, during World War II, and we don't have anything left from when he was in the Navy. Hopefully somewhere out there, there is a uniform. Maybe I'll find it someday."

    It would be a short meeting — Kelly needed to catch a flight to Houston to watch his twin brother, Scott, depart for the International Space Station — but one that would stay with the Welches, they said.
    LeRoy Vacovsky died Feb. 16, 2008. Monday, the day the Welches are flying back to Chicago, will be the seventh anniversary of his death.

    It's customary for Penny to visit her father's resting place on that day to leave red, white and blue flowers and an American flag on his grave. This year, she'll have something else to bring him.
    "Just the fact that we're taking this uniform home on that day," she said. "It's going to be a very special day."
    Slipdigit likes this.

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