Routine learning experience leads to remarkable history lesson

November 19, 2018

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — A Pennsylvania College of Technology radiography student, finding common ground with a patient she met during a clinical experience at a local hospital, made a trip to New York City that she’ll likely never forget. Nor will the World War II veteran she accompanied.

Jennifer Nicholson

Jennifer Nicholson, of Lock Haven, a Pennsylvania College of Technology radiography student and Navy veteran, arranged a visit to the aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a museum in New York, for World War II veteran Robert Grieb after learning about his story during a clinical education experience. Grieb served on the carrier.

IMAGE: Pennsylvania College of Technology

Jennifer Nicholson, of Lock Haven, learned of the veteran while she was helping with a physician-ordered radiography exam for his son. Penn College radiography students receive their training on campus and in the radiology departments of affiliate hospitals.

“We started his exam, and it was a lengthy one, so we spent quite some time together,” said Nicholson, who received a radiography degree in August and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the college in applied health studies: radiography concentration. “We were chatting afterwards, and he inquired about my (Southern) accent and how I ended up in Pennsylvania.”

As Nicholson explained that she had moved to Pennsylvania after a nearly 10-year enlistment in the Navy, during which she served on aircraft carriers, her patient noted that his father, Robert Grieb, had served on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid during the Battle of Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II, and one of the bloodiest.

“We continued to chat about our similarities for quite some time,” Nicholson recalled. “As I was walking him out to check out, he turned to me and asked if I knew that the USS Intrepid was now a museum in New York, which I was not aware of,” Nicholson said.

In the waiting room, the patient asked Nicholson if she would be willing to take his father to visit the USS Intrepid “one last time.”

“I continued to think about it the rest of the day, and felt like this was something that I needed to do for him to show he wasn’t forgotten after all these years and to honor his service during groundbreaking history,” Nicholson said.

After contacting some veteran friends, Nicholson and a few others began planning.

The group made a daylong trip to Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex, centered on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, where Grieb was honored with a “challenge coin.”

“It was an amazing experience, and the stories were awesome,” Nicholson said. “Robert’s eyes lit up as soon as we arrived at the ship, and he instantly remembered everything. He told stories of his time as a gunner’s mate and the weapons that he recognized, catching the attention of other visitors.”

One of his most attention-getting stories was his recollection of a kamikaze striking the Intrepid. During World War II, the carrier survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. By the time it was decommissioned in 1974, more than 50,000 men had served on board.

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Last Updated November 19, 2018