According to the History Channel ; “Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.”
Enjoy this “Saluting Those Who Serve” full episode. Jessop’s Journal is a 30-minute collection of “Powerful, Positive & Inspirational Stories” that airs Sunday morning at 10 on ABC4 Utah and worldwide at JessopsJournal.com
In this episode of Jessop’s Journal we are talking about “Saluting Those Who Serve” —
Our first guest is an ordinary woman does some extraordinary things with ordinance…translation she served in the military as a bomb demolition expert.
Rob Shallenberger -He aimed high, and his dream became a reality. “I flew F16’s, T38’s, worked with Air Force One for a little while.”
Sgt. Michael Russo comes from a long line of military service – he tells a pretty cool story about his grandfather serving in the Battle of the Bulge.
In between, musical guest Cinders signs about the eternal question of what you want to do when you grow up.
But first, Jazz Wilkey…
I get to interview ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This episode of Jessop’s Journal does not play basketball, but she does play the bassoon and while in the military did play the snare drums.
Jazz Wilkey (yes that really is her name) has a colored heritage of military service. She brought a variety of memorabilia from her father and grandfather that included items that had seen some pretty significant battles. You’ll have to watch the video to capture a glimpse into some of these rare artifacts.
One of the interesting things Jazz told me about was a bell from the U.S.S. Albatross that was decommissioned in a previous war zone. Most of the items from the ship were actually tossed into the ocean rather than have it fall into enemy hands. One of the surviving items that has been handed down to her includes that Navy ships bell.
Here’s a tidbit of info, this ordinary woman does some extraordinary things with ordinance…translation she served in the military as a bomb demolition expert.
What does the military mean to Jazz? “It means a lot. This country is a great country, and we need to do what we can to protect it. Serving in the military you are a part of something much bigger than you. You know that you are there to protect others who cannot protect themselves.”
Family also means a lot to Jazz. Come to find out that Jazz and I both have ancestry from the Czech Republic. There are some great pictures in this episode of Jessop’s Journal. Not to mention some fun music…polka music from jazz’s grandfather band, the Eddie Janak Orchestra.
Jazz puts it this way; “Music is a big part of my life. It affects everything you do. It effects your mood. It can help you calm down. It can lift you up. It can fill you with so many emotions. To know I come from a musical family, is incredible to me. Music is life.”
It was a blast to feature the band CINDERS in the Jessop’s Jukebox portion of this week’s show. They performed their hit song “Growing Up.” They also have a pretty fun music video online.
Do you recall an event that changed the course of your life?
Rob Shallenberger does. He smiled and told me; “There is an event here in Utah called the Stadium of Fire. 4th of July celebration and every year they start this 4th of July celebration with this flyby of F16’s for anyone that’s been there. So, my brother and I are sitting in the stands and these jets come over and if you’ve ever been at a flyby when they go over you feel that rumble in your chest and it’s just an awesome feeling. These jets fly by the Stadium of Fire, and we felt that rumble and that roar. My brother and I looked at each other. Someday we are going to fly those jets over this stadium.”
Rob was going through a rough time in his life. “We are all going through something and as a teenager that was my time. I really had no direction. I had low self-esteem. It was time in my life where I just didn’t know what I was going to be doing with life. It was tough,” he said.
That event sparked a dream. “It was at that moment if you want to call if a ‘seed of a vision’ calls it whatever you want, but it was planted, and something changed in my life. Where I wasn’t even on track to graduate from high school at that point. Everything changed. I got laser focused and ask, how do you become a fighter pilot.”
He aimed high, and his dream became a reality. “I flew F16’s, T38’s, worked with Air Force One for a little while.” Come to find out that Rob was in the advance team before Air Force One goes anywhere. You’ll need to watch the entire interview for more details, but the Reader’s Digest version of what he did was; “You want to make sure that the President gets in and out. The idea is to have no news stories. No stair incidents. Nothing like that.”
One of his career highlights with the Air Force happened over Provo, Utah. Fifteen years later, in 2007. Rob got emotional as he told me; “Both my brother and I had the chance to fly by the stadium of fire. Him on the left side of the formation. Me on the right side. We both became F16 pilots. We flew over the stadium. Everyone is cheering in the stadium. We don’t hear any of that in the jet. You just hear whoosh. And after we had gone by the ground controller cam over the radio and said ‘nice flyby. Perfect timing. congratulations Shallenberger’s. I remember chills up and down my arm and a tear in my eye. It really had been fifteen years to the day since we had sat in the stadium saying we are going to fly over the stadium someday.”
Sgt. Michael Russo is a “17 Echo Electronic Warfare Specialist” with the Army National Guard.
He did let us know that “all opinions are my own and not the Department of Defense, as I’m not a public spokesperson for the National Guard, the Military or the Department of Defense.”
Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, I had a chance to ask Sgt. Russo why he was serving in the military. It comes down to family.
It was interesting to learn that his grandfather, Gennaro Luigi Russo, was born in Italy. He emigrated to the United States and volunteered to serve in World War II. Gennaro served in the 5th Armored Division, 707 Tank Battalion, 81st Armored Regiment. He drove a M4 Sherman Tank and served in the Battle of the Bulge. Sgt. Russo recounted a story of his grandfather’s tank running out of fuel and having to walk twenty miles across enemy lines to get to safety.
Everyone has a story. I strongly feel that “stories have power”. Chances are that if you are going through something, that someone else probably has as well. The shared experiences we humans have can help each other. That my friend makes the point that stories “help us understand each other.”
You don’t have to agree with everyone, but in my opinion, if people would take more time getting to knowing more about others and where they are coming from, we just might find out that we have more similarities than differences.
Jessop’s Journal is something special when it comes to broadcast news. I have the honor of being able to do longer in-depth interviews that you don’t normally see with people from all walks of life. A big shout out goes to my collaborator, Ed Wilets, who does a great job as my videographer/editor for all my stories. Your feedback is always welcome at DJessop@abc4.com
It’s my honor to be able to share, Jessop’s Journal, a 30-minute collection of Powerful, Positive and Inspirational Stories every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. on ABC4 to all of Utah along with parts of Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona. Jessop’s Journal is also available worldwide at JessopsJournal.com.