Public history is a collection of memories shared by and for the people, held in common by diverse communities across time and space. The CNU Public History Center and our project partner, The Mariners’ Museum, are deeply committed to incorporating the local community in the preservation of our maritime heritage. The public, after all, is the ultimate curator of  history.

We are truly honored to have local U.S. military veterans from different backgrounds read portions of the Letters Home Collection from The Mariners’ Museum Library. The Public History Center’s Veterans Project is one small way to pay tribute and recognize those who have served our country, past and present. Thank you.


Recordings arranged by CNU Public History Center Master Fellow, Nicole Lichtey, Class of 2017

Lieutenant Colonel Frank P. Donnini, U.S. Air Force (retired)

Frank Donnini (2)

Lt. Colonel Frank was active duty from 1970 to 1993, with primary work was as an intelligence officer. Assignments included: Exchange Officer with the Royal Australian Air Force; Fellow at Air University’s Airpower Research Institute; and Air Force Research Associate at University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  Post military service, he worked for SAIC as a defense contractor and currently is a civil servant in the Air Force.  Lt. Colonel Donnini earned the following academic degrees: Doctor of Public Administration (University of Alabama); Master of Arts in International Relations (Creighton University); Master of Public Administration (Golden Gate University); and Bachelor of Arts in History (Union College).  He is a long-time volunteer at The Mariners’ Museum and an active member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Newport News, VA.  Frank and his wife Zell live in Newport News and have two grown sons. 

From the Robert Loder Collection Manuscript Transcriptions

Archive number: MS0065/01.15#02 

Archive number: MS0065/01.02#01 

Archive number: MS0065/01.36#02 

Major Dustin Menhart, Professor of Military Science, Christopher Newport University & the College of William and Mary

MAJ Dustin Menhart (1)

Major Menhart enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Topographical Surveyor and Analyst. During his time as a Topographical Engineer he attended the Officer Candidate School at FT. Benning, Georgia where he graduated as the Distinguished Military and Leadership Graduate and was commissioned a second Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps in 2003. He also holds Master degrees from California University of Pennsylvania, the University of Georgia, and a Masters of Military Arts & Science (MMAS) from the Army Command and Staff College. Major Menhart’s assignments include Battalion Executive & Operations Officer of the 833D Transportation Battalion, 597th Transportation Brigade, Surface Deployment & Distribution Command (SDDC); Assistant Curriculum Developer, Department of Logistics and Resource Operations (DLRO), Command & General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, KS; Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point; General Supply Officer, 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; Company Commander, HHC, 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; Aerial Delivery Heavy Drop Rigging Platoon Leader, Parachute Pack Platoon Leader, Echo Company, 782nd Main Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division; Supply and Services Activity Warehouse Platoon Leader, Headquarters and Alpha Company, 782nd Main Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division. Major Menhart’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, and countless others. He is married to the former Jolene Zoretich of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. They have two sons, Dalton (14) and Gavin (12). 

From the Rezin H. Gist Transcriptions

Archive number: MS0292/01.01#01

Archive number: MS0292/01.01#02

Lieutenant Commander Dave Pedersen, U.S. Navy (retired)

David Pedersen (3)

LCDR Pedersen served a career in the United States Navy starting as an enlisted recruit and retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. He served in seven ships from Mine Sweepers to Aircraft Carriers, and deployed seven times in support of our country on missions supporting the war on drugs to the war against terrorism. Along the way he spent a lifetime at sea, but with the enduring support of his loving wife Dawn and of his children, Stephen and Elizabeth, he served this great country with pride.  

From the Robert Loder Transcriptions

Archive number: MS0065/01.22#02

Archive number: MS0065/01.34#03

Stay tuned, we are recording now and there is more to come!

Are you a U.S. Navy veteran in Hampton Roads who would like to participate in our project? Please send us your information via our Contact page.