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New book honors Christchurch graduates who served our country

Captain Alexander “Sandy” G. Monroe, a 1960 graduate of Christchurch School, recently published “In Service to Their Country: Christchurch School and the American Uniformed Services,” a book on the military experiences of the school’s alumni.

by Larry Chowning

Since its founding in 1921, Christchurch School, a college preparatory school established by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, has played an integral part in the life of Middlesex County.

A new book by alumnus Captain Alexander “Sandy” G. Monroe speaks to the honor, courage and dedication of those many Christchurch graduates who served this country and the role the school played in molding their lives.

Monroe’s 203-page book, “In Service to Their Country—Christchurch School and the American Uniformed Services,” should be of interest to Middlesex residents because many of the vignettes are about former young people and staff members at Christchurch who were a special part of this community.

Many will recognize the names of Johnny Craine, Bobby Mills, and Bob and Breck Montague, all of Urbanna, and Lew Puller of Saluda, just to name a few. All but one attended Urbanna Grade School and went on to attend Christchurch School.

Elsewhere, they became known as Vice Admiral John W. Craine Jr., ‘64; Captain Robert E. Mills, ‘64; Commander Robert L. Montague III, ‘52; Captain F. Breckinridge Montague ‘66; and First Lieutenant Lewis B. Puller Jr., ‘63.

A 1960 graduate of Christchurch, Monroe has done a masterful job of letting the service men and women tell their own stories of their Christchurch and military experiences. Humor, dedication and loyalty to the school all seem to be a common bond of expression by former students. Monroe also links the history of the school to that of the nation.

Monroe writes in his introduction, “The long line of those in the Christchurch family who have served has been memorialized by a simple granite monument that overlooks the Rappahannock.”

The new natural sciences building on the Christchurch campus is named for and honors First Lieutenant Lewis B. Puller Jr., USMC, who served with great intrepidity and was maimed in the Vietnam War in 1968. He later won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography, “Fortunate Son.” As a child, Puller came to Middlesex when his famous Marine Corps father, Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller Sr. retired and moved to Saluda. Lewis Jr. graduated from Christchurch in 1963.

The book features excellent photographs of young men and women in uniform, and in early photos of Christchurch School.

Monroe collected a great amount of data, but also took a great deal of time collecting oral histories from the school’s military graduates, and has expertly woven this information into his text.

There is also a list of Christchurch alumni veterans who served in the armed services. Interestingly, the first one on the list is Woodford C. Harwood, Class of 1923, U.S. Army. Although it doesn’t say so, Harwood was from Saluda. There also are other Middlesex residents on the list.

Monroe’s book is not only a tribute to the people he writes about, but also to Christchurch School, which he believes gave him exceptional direction, meaning and understanding in his own life.

A retired Navy Captain, Monroe also works with the Naval History and Heritage Command, preserving stories for future generations of American sailors serving at home and abroad, which obviously contributed greatly to his new book.

Ironically, one of the outstanding graduates of Christchurch School, Monroe failed to document himself, noted David F. Winkler, a retired Naval officer and accomplished author, in his endorsement of Monroe’s book.

“A naval officer with decades of service, Monroe in his efforts on behalf of the Naval History and Heritage Command, has been instrumental in assuring that hundreds of stories of American sailors serving at home and abroad have been preserved for future generations,” wrote Winkler.

Monroe was an honors graduate of Christchurch School who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and master’s degree from the College of William and Mary. Monroe was commissioned in the U.S. Navy in 1964.

The book can be purchased through the publisher Brandylane Press (804-644-3090 or ) or on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Monroe will hold a book signing in the coming weeks in Middlesex. Monroe also is available to speak to groups about his book.

posted 02.12.2014

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