As non-commissioned officer in charge of all offset printing in Europe, I was picked to go with the Inspector General’s Team to our eight Air Force Bases in England. My headquarters was the United States Air Force in Europe (USAFE).
My job was to check the printing department on each base to see if they needed my help in any way. I gave each shop a pep talk, showed them how to repair their down printing equipment, and left them some parts I’d brought with me.
We were there three days and the night before we flew back to Germany, the commanding general had a get-together at the NCO Club to thank our team. When I found the general’s name was Cornelius Fleming, I thought he was kin to me, even though I had never heard of him before.
I went over to him and started talking to him. He told me that he was from Dickenson County, Virginia. I told him my grandparents were Cornelius Jay Vanover and Florence Fleming Vanover, and my great-grandparents were Wesley T. Vanover and Martha Fleming Vanover.
General Fleming then told me that my grandmother, Florence Fleming, was his dad’s sister, and that my great-grandmother, Martha Fleming, was his grandfather’s sister. I knew that my great-grandmother Martha was aunt to my grandmother Florence Fleming, but I never knew this other information the general gave me.
Every time he came to Germany, he looked me up and we would talk about our family connections. He visited me one at the Pentagon and then I never heard from him again.
When I went home on leave, my dad was the only Vanover that knew of General Fleming. All the others had passed away.
(Columnist Everett Vanover lives in California.)