Category: Uncategorized

 Original Virginia-class submarine illustration becomes a customized fund-raising tool

The official U.S. Navy illustration of the Virginia-class submarine
 Virginia-class submarine. The official U.S. Navy illustration is packed with details about the most advanced submarine in the world. Commissions are now being accepted to create custom prints for specific Virginia-class subs.
The U.S. Navy' All Hands magazine
 All Hands celebrated the centennial of the submarine and featured my commissioned illustration of the Virginia-class boat.

Classic illustration can be effective fund-raising, awareness tool for your Virginia-class group

As the first of the new Virginia-class (SSN-774) submarines sailed into action, All Hands magazine introduced the vessels in its celebration of 100 years of submariners service. I was honored to have my illustration of the Virginia-class grace that issue’s center spread.

Following that, I created a customized version of the All Hands illustration for the USS North Carolina, which was installed on that sub after its commissioning. The work was also adapted for an exhibit at the Battleship North Carolina Museum in Wilmington.

The original illustration has been reproduced many times in magazines and newspapers. A support group for the USS Texas commissioned a customized print (shown above) to help raise funds for that crew.

In the works now is a new series of illustrated Virginia-class prints designed to help support the crews of the various submarines.

I’m currently accepting commissions for customized bulk print runs for any of the Virginia-class subs. The prints can be customized in a number of ways, from adding the badge of the particular submarine to customizing the subhead, introductory text, and some of the text blocks.

A customized print commemorating a specific Virginia-class sub can be a great way to raise funds in support of that particular crew. Crew members, their families, and friends can all appreciate this print, which honors the dedicated service of our submariners as well as celebrates the engineering triumphs that enable our American naval forces to protect our country in waters here and abroad.

You can use this unique print to raise support, increase awareness, and offer a keepsake that can be handed down to the next generations.

Contact me to discuss customizing this classic print for your submarine group. Just send me a note via the the short form below and I’ll be right back in touch.

A salvaged salvage trip: part 5

On the RoadGod leads us home

That night I was praying that God would lead us to a tire store that could help us. I looked up Merchant’s Tire and Auto and was relieved to see they opened at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. They were across town. Would the tires we had manage to hold up under the load of barn wood and get us there? Would they have the required tires in stock?

We prayed as we set out that morning. A little while later, we pulled into the lot at Merchant’s and a few minutes after arriving, we learned they had the tires and would get them on that morning.

We thanked God for His provision as we said the blessing over sausage biscuits at a nearby Burger King. While we waited for the tires to be changed, we walked around the shops nearby, keeping an eye on the old red pickup, which we could see up on the lift in the bay of the tire shop.

Around noon, the truck was off the lift and ready to roll. New tires all around.

As we paid the bill, Scott, who was manning the front office, asked me why I was hauling all that barn wood. Was I building something? I explained that I was an artist and was using the wood in sculptures. “Each sculpture is hand stamped with a Scripture,” I said. “I call them ‘Salvaged Messengers’ because I use salvaged wood that would be thrown out or burned up. And I think they’re a little like all of us. We are lost, in one way or another, separated from God and in great need of rescue. God has salvaged us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He’s saved us from destruction and stamped His message of love and forgiveness on our hearts and lives. When we accept God’s gift of eternal life by inviting Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become living salvaged messengers ourselves.”

Hannah and I headed home to Hanover, praising The Lord for protecting us and providing for us at every turn. We saw up close what Nahum wrote about in the book that bears his name:

“The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

A salvaged salvage trip: part 4

“I’d buy a flashlight…”

Walmart. It was ten minutes to eight. The auto center closed at eight. Could they help us? The manager looked at the truck and examined the tires closely.

If he could get the ticket in the system before eight o’clock, they would do it. Timothy was a young man working the register in the auto department. I thanked him for the help he and his manager were trying to give us.

He looked at me and said, “That’s God. I’ve seen him turn folks down.”

“Are you a believer?,” I asked. He said he was, and began to tell me how he’d seen God work in his life many times in the past couple of weeks. Timothy had just moved his family to Staunton from Petersburg. He told me that businesses were leaving Petersburg and there were heroine dealers on the street corners. He said, “I told my wife we are not raising our son in this town.”

So they moved to Staunton and lived in a run-down motel for a couple of weeks. He interviewed for the job at WalMart. He got it. A church helped them with expenses. They had been able to move to a better location. He was expecting his first paycheck within the week. It’s little wonder he recognized God’s hand at work in my situation.

The manager was back. After checking his stock, he said he had only one tire of the sort I needed, LTs. He put that one on, replacing the one that had failed. Then he told me that I might be able to make it to Richmond on the remaining tires — if I drove slowly. Then he debated with himself about the best route to take. The state route 250 would allow me to go slowly, but it was curvier and it was getting dark. I-64 was straight. Either way it was a risk. He suggested I buy a flashlight. We bought one, along with extra batteries, and paid for the tire.

Timothy clocked out and we went our separate ways. We thanked God for getting us to Walmart and for the new tire, but we had a decision to make.

I thought about it over dinner at Waffle House. Hannah was nervous about trying to drive back. I was nervous too. I didn’t relish the idea of becoming stranded on one of those long exit-less stretches of I-64 and sleeping in the pickup all night. I decided to stay in Staunton that evening and try again Sunday to get the rest of the tires changed. Hannah was relieved. So was I.

We drove slowly through the country roads to Motel 6 — not fancy, but better than the truck.

Part 5

A salvaged salvage trip: part 3

Please get us off the highway, Lord!

I could see on my phone that we were a little more than a mile south of the Glasgow exit, so we prayed that God would get us safely off the interstate and I proceeded to drive very slowly, emergency flashers on, toward the exit. We finally made it and pulled into an Exxon station. We thanked The Lord for His protection.

No one was on duty to help, but a man the station clerk had me call said he would send a tow truck driver to have a look, I told him I wasn’t going anywhere.

I began to try to remove the spare tire from its place beneath the back of the truck. It looked like it hadn’t been removed since just before Y2K, so it wasn’t easy. That’s when a young man named Dan walked over and offered to help. I guess it was becoming clear that this wasn’t my speciality, so, even though he was on his way to see that evening’s light show at Natural Bridge, he jumped in and in pretty short order the bum tire was off and the spare was on. Looking at the failed tire, I marveled that it had not blown when we were on the interstate. It was bulging in several places.

The tow truck operator showed up just as we were wrapping up. Looking at the old, worn spare and remaining tires, he advised taking it very slow and trying to make it to Staunton, about 50 miles away. Once there, he suggested getting a new set of tires from either WalMart or Merchant Tire, whichever was open.

Hannah and I thanked God for Dan and the advice and we prayed for God to get us safely to Staunton.

We headed north again, slowly and this time on Route 11, the main Shenandoah Valley thoroughfare. We drove over Natural Bridge, which is hidden from view by a short wooden fence along either side of the road. We passed Hull’s 1950s-style drive-in theatre, non-profit, community-owned, and packed that evening with cars and people on tailgates and blankets to see the movie.

We drove on slowly, watching the dusky valley landscape pass by. And praying.

Part 4

A salvaged salvage trip: part 2

Eric on Price's Farm

My cousin Eric on his family’s farm. The 1905-era barn is behind him, along with the pile of wood to be salvaged. In the distance are the gorgeous green rolling hills of Giles County, Virginia.

Deep in the mountains

The ride started off well enough, but a small omen of trouble ahead came when the passenger-side windshield wiper came loose during a heavy cloudburst as we made our way west in I-64 out of Richmond. Hannah remained calm and collected as I pulled over under a bridge and she got out on the safer side and quickly retrieved the wiper unit before it fell off the hood. Thankfully, the driver’s-side wiper remained attached.

We drove on. I especially enjoyed seeing Hannah’s reaction to the sights as we made our way deeper into the Southwest Virginia mountains, crossing the Blue Ridge mountains and entering the Appalachian ridge and valley region. Her every “Wow, Look at that!” took me back to my own wonder at what the local population lovingly refers to as “God’s Country,” as well they should. The Creator’s loving fingerprints are on grand display wherever you look. 

We arrived Friday around twilight and enjoyed the chance to visit with my aunt Ann, uncle Harold, Eric, and Kyle, who is often there working on the farm on the weekends.

Saturday morning we loaded the old barn boards onto the truck. Whatever I didn’t take from the pile would become kindling for my aunt and uncle this winter. I was sorry to not have room for every single board but the truck was full and I didn’t want to overload the older tires with such a long trip back home.

Old Price Home

The house my mother was raised in. This was “Grandma Ruby’s house” of my childhood. My PawPaw built the house himself. The old toilet just off the bedroom in the lower right of the house was loud and used to scare the daylights out of me.

Hannah and I said our goodbyes and left around 2:00 p.m. Saturday. On the way back I showed her the house where my mother grew up, one of three simple homes my grandfather, or PawPaw, as we called him, built on a steep hill. Hannah took some pictures through the truck window as we drove along. 

In downtown Pearisburg we walked around. It’s always smart to carry cash in small towns. I didn’t have any and could only scrounge $1.65 from the cupholder in the truck. But the snow cone stand attendant gave me a price break on a cone for Hannah. “Oh, that’ll do,” she said of the coins I offered. She piled up the shaved ice and poured on the strawberry syrup. Small towns.

The truck handled well as we made our way northeast with the load of salvaged wood securely strapped in the bed. At Blacksburg, we spent 30 minutes or so driving around the campus of Virginia Tech. We have more than a few Hokies in our family and I wanted Hannah to see the school that was often the topic of discussion, especially when football season was in full gear.

We headed north on I-81. The sky was blue, hills were green, and traffic wasn’t too bad. A couple of miles before the Glasgow/Natural Bridge exit, however, something went wrong. Suddenly the truck began to shake violently. I thought we had a flat. Those tires were too old to trust after all. But pulling off to the side, I didn’t see any sign of a flat tire. I tried to go on, but the same bumping and shaking started again.

Part 3

A salvaged salvage trip: part 1

Photo of a century-old red barn in Giles County, Virginia

Demolition of a rear section of this barn provided a variety of wood for sculptures.

The trip begins

On Friday, July 10, 2015, I set out from Hanover County late in the afternoon for Pearisburg, my mother’s hometown in Southwest Virginia. Along for the ride was my oldest daughter, Hannah, 11. My cousin, Eric, had told me that he was tearing out part of his family farm’s old 1905 barn. He is trying to save the barn from being pulled down the Giles County hillside it has majestically overlooked since 1905. The view from the barn is gorgeous. Lush green hills swell and drop, to lift trees and rocks up toward the sky or cradle them in gentle pockets with the occasional pond.

I have many pleasant memories of childhood visits to that barn. My sister and cousins and I played, rode ponies and horses, and had the run of the farm when we were Hannah’s age. It was a magical place. Anything was possible there. it was in that barn that Eric convinced me that I could jump from the hayloft into a very small pile of straw he had brushed together. I did well to escape with only a sprained ankle. It was in a field near that farm that I convinced Eric that I could drive a truck. He agreed and I had my first auto accident. I drove my uncle’s green Ford Courier pickup truck into a telephone pole guy wire. The wire sliced into the plastic and light metal hood of the truck. But it also prevented me from sailing down an embankment into the old clapboard home of Sam Eaton. I did well to escape with only a summer’s worth of yard cutting to help pay for the damaged truck. I was 10.

Now I was glad for the opportunity to visit this side of my family again and to salvage some of the wood from a place that has meant so much to me.

We were driving my father’s red 1993 Ford pickup truck, which is in pretty good condition with the exception of the radio, or so I thought. I suspected the five-hour trip would challenge Hannah who has grown up being able to enjoy a portable DVD player on long trips like this. When I was her age, we simply counted cows and buried them when we passed a cemetery, or raced through the alphabet reading signs and license plates on nearby cars. 

I needn’t have worried, though. Hannah was a superb traveler. We talked. She took pictures of the scenery with my phone. She texted reports from the road to her younger sister and a friend when we had a good signal, which was not always the case. It was a little like riding with a contemporary young Edward R. Murrow.

Part 2