During a decades-long career with the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, Avoca native Fred Gedrich was assigned to more than 50 missions in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He was witness to the collapse of the Soviet Communist Empire and the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China.
Since retiring, he has made a second career writing and commenting about U.S. national security and world affairs. He’s been published in Le Monde, the Miami Herald, National Review, New York Daily News, New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Times and appeared on national TV and radio and on WILK. He has also attended United Nations World Summits in Johannesburg, South Africa and Monterrey, Mexico.
This summer, Fred, 73, went back to Europe on a personal journey with his wife, Gayle, daughter, Melanie, and granddaughter, Olivia to visit his son-in-law, Jose, serving with the U.S. Army in Poland, which is also the homeland of one set of Fred’s grandparents.
In Krakow, they stopped by the historic city center, the Wawel Castle and Cathedral and Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Schindler was a Nazi Party member who saved his Jewish workers from certain death by bribing their captors, inspiring the movie “Schindler’s List.” Fred’s friend, Gerald Molen, produced the movie and won an Academy Award.
They also traveled to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps, which the Nazis operated from 1940-45, and about 40 miles from Krakow, where at least 1.3 million men, women, and children — 90 percent Jews, were murdered.
Fred said seeing the death camps is “something every freedom-loving person with the means should do at least once in their lives. It was a profound experience. One can almost feel the presence of those who lost their lives during one of the darkest moments in human history. And after visiting them, one fully understands the true meaning of the terms ‘Never Forget and Never Again.’ ”
They also saw Warsaw and Poznan in Poland. From Poland, Fred and Gayle took a train to Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany, flew to Dublin, Ireland, from where they flew home to Virginia.
Back home, Gedrich wasn’t done with his bucket list just yet. Despite having already been to all 50 states, he made three stops he had missed, visiting the Hoagy Carmichael Room at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; the Jim Thorpe tomb in Pennsylvania and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Back in Virginia, Gedrich, a cancer survivor, went to Washington, D.C. for the D.C. Kosciouszko Freedom 5K Run on Oct. 14 and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk in D.C. on Oct. 21.
“I wanted to let folks know that cancer can’t stop survivors from doing the things they love to do and helping others.”