This week I visited La Isabela on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, one of the first European settlements of the New World. Much to my surprise, there were hardly any signs indicating the route to such a monumental location. Then again, I wasn’t surprised much at all, as this country has its own way of doing things…
“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”
On his first voyage, he landed in the Bahamas and ultimately established La Navidad as the first European settlement in what is present-day Haiti. On his second voyage, after discovering that La Navidad had been destroyed by Taínos (natives to the island who were [probably] rightly disgruntled with Spanish treatments), Columbus traveled a bit east and founded La Isabela. After several years of your typical conquest blunders – hunger, disease, quarrels with the natives, etc. – Columbus abandoned La Isabela and ultimately named Santo Domingo as the official Spanish settlement in 1496.
I couldn’t help but feel small while standing on such historic ground, unable to process all of the events and people that our world has seen since 1493 (nevertheless before that!). As I walked along the hot, salty clay and posed with ruins of Admiral Christopher Columbus’s house, one special man naturally came to mind – my grandpa!
Coincidentally or not, Vice Admiral Thomas R. Weschler is being honored this very weekend in his hometown of Erie, PA for his service in the US Navy AND his continuous efforts in providing exciting education opportunities for people interested in both studying and accepting the magnitude of the sea. Furthermore, the wing of the Military Gallery at the local Historical Society will be named in his honor. At 97 years young, my grandpa is sharp, curious, and humble; a stoic individual who, in applying a specific passion to all areas of his life, embodies a wise truthfulness that inspires others to find and develop their own.
Like the concept of history, I will never be able to fathom or understand all of my grandpa’s stories at sea. However, I am certain that he deserves every bit of recognition he’s receiving this weekend and more. Not only has he been an exemplary grandpa, but also a beacon of nobility, intellect, and just plain goodness. Wishing I could be there to celebrate, but “oceans separate land, not souls.”