“Devotion” – The (Personal) Backstory

Current movie, “Devotion”

The story of Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner in the movie is true.  There’s much more to the story, which involves me and my family.  Really.

It happened like this…

1972.  Hubby is an Ensign in the Navy, headed to Vietnam on the carrier USS Kennedy.  His squadron was VF-32, the same squadron as Brown and Hudner.  He heard the story.  Everyone in VF-32 knew the story of Brown and Hudner.

2005.  Son was assigned to his first Navy squadron, amazingly also VF-32.  We visited him in Virginia Beach, and he showed us the Ready Room and the squadron hanger.  I still remember walking down the hallway and seeing Jesse Brown’s portrait on the wall.  I asked about him, and our son gave us the ‘long and proud’ story.  VF-32 will always honor these heroes.

At the same time, our son’s school reached out to alumni, ‘what are you doing now’, for their annual bulletin.  Hubby wrote what our son was doing.  Low and behold he got a phone call from the Development Director:

“Hi Steve.  Thank you for writing about your son.  I was so excited to read that he is assigned to VF-32.  This is Tom Hudner.  My father was also Tom Hudner, and assigned to VF-32.”

Well… as you can imagine, that was a long and memorable conversation.  What a connection!  Hudner flew the F4U Corsair.  Hubby flew the F4 Phantom.  Son flew the F18 Super Hornet.

Oh, there’s more…

July 2010.  The newest Fisher House was built in Boston.  Fisher Houses are a wonderful charity of the Fisher family- Zachary Fisher recovered the USS Intrepid (ready to be scrapped) and turned it into a museum in NYC.  His family now builds houses alongside VA hospitals for families of soldiers to have a place to stay.  As is the tradition, Medal of Honor recipients participate in the groundbreaking ceremony.

Captain Tom Hudner USN was there.

April 2011.  My class gifted our God Bless America quilt to the Boston Fisher House, after it was invited to be on display at the Intrepid Museum.  For those of you who know my Milly the Quilter blog posts, this is a wonderful story.  Here is a snippet:  https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/07/31/milly-part-6/
I saw Tom Hudner’s picture on the wall of the Fisher House, holding a shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony.

July 2011.  This was the one-year anniversary of the Fisher House.  The quilt was the heart of the event.  The Fisher Family was there, as is the custom at a one-year anniversary.  We sang, presented the quilt, and received Command Coins from the Fishers.  I made sure I walked over to Tom Hudner’s photo.  I talked to him (really):

“Tom, you were the main event a year ago when the Fisher House opened, and I am the main event event at the one-year anniversary.  What an honor to be a little part of you.”

Invitation to the one-year anniversary,
which includes a part of the God Bless America quilt.

July, 2013.  Tom Hudner returned to Korea to try to find Jesse Brown’s remains, or the remains of the aircraft.  He was 89 years ‘young’.  He did not find anything, yet he never gave up after all those years.  His son, Tom, told Hubby that his dad looked after Jesse Brown’s wife and remained friends for the rest of his life.

Tom Hudner was a real hero and role model for how to live your life – Ship, Shipmate, Self – as they say in the Navy.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, military, patriotism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to “Devotion” – The (Personal) Backstory

  1. beth says:

    this is an amazing story and personal connection, and gave me chills –

  2. Darlene says:

    I love these serendipitous moments. You are blessed with them, but they only happen to those who look for them. This is a great, “It happened like this…” story.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    What an amazing story, Jennie. You have found so many connections along the way. I don’t think it’s an accident that you have come in contact with so many good people.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you so much, Dan. I do think there have been many connections, although not planned- it just happens. Lucky me. Yes, there have been so many good people along the way. Best to you!

  4. How cool to have that connection, great stuff Jennie.

  5. All those connections and I feel connected, too (the USS Intrepid, as you know). Such a lovely ‘living’ story with the kind acts continuing long after the ‘heroic events’ (taking care of the family, etc)

  6. beetleypete says:

    Nothing beats such a personal connection to many lives going full circle. That is inspirational indeed, dear Jennie!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. Wow, small world eh! What a wonderful connection and story. It made me tear up.

  8. What a fabulous story, Jennie. Thank you for sharing it. I think your goodness keeps you in good circles. Bless you.

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    Thanks for providing the backstory to an amazing tale. It’s wonderful how things interconnect and one thing leads to another. I wasn’t familiar with the movie, but now I’m going to look for it.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you liked it, Pete. It really is an amazing story, and how things connected still has me in awe. It’s a great movie, too. When you see it, you might not understand the flyover at the end. It’s called ‘the missing man formation’. Very moving!

  10. quiall says:

    I knew nothing of this. I must go find the movie…

  11. That is reall a wonderful story, and the connection you have is beautiful. Now, you should start quiliting again, to visit also others of the Fisher Houses. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

  12. Amazing Jennie and such incredible connections over the years. It sounds like a film to watch so will look out for it. Happy New Year.. ♥

  13. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Spotlight 2023 – #history Robbie Cheadle, #Funnies The Story Reading Ape, #Opportunities Marcia Meara, #Review Olga Nunez Miret, #Priorities Pete Springer, #Connections Jennie Fitzkee | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  14. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, an amazing post of personal connections and reading on I got goosebumps and imagine you all felt the same when watching the movie. The warmth and kindness of everyone is incredible and a very moving post. Wishing you a lovely New Year!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Annika. I still find the whole story and connections amazing. It’s one of my fondest memories. The movie brought it back to life. Happy New Year to you.

  15. dgkaye says:

    What an amazing story Jennie. You know what they say – there is so much truth in fiction. ❤

  16. What a wonderful post, Jennie, and a series of connections to Hudner. Meant to happen, I think. Now I’ll be sure to watch the movie. 🙂

  17. HI Jennie, a great post about your family’s connections to Hudner. A most interesting story.

  18. What a story! I plan to watch that movie!

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