Saturday, April 18, 2015


Yes my last name is Commander, so my blog title comes to me honestly. My name has created much interest throughout my life. I was raised in Norfolk, VA, which houses the largest US Naval Base in the world. ‘Commander’ is an officer’s rank in the navy. Any interaction my family had with the Naval Base or sailors was enhanced by our last name.

 I attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute AKA ‘VPI’, AKA ‘VA Tech’. In my time there, the military Corps of Cadets was very prominent and I was in the ROTC/Corps for four years. My senior year in the Corps, I was the ‘E’ Company commander, so I was Commander Commander. Pretty Cool!
Being in ROTC, I agreed to serve two years in the army. My initial rank in the army was Lieutenant Commander. This caused quite a stir.

So where did the name originate? Our family lore says it was of French origin and was spelled Commande’. The family history tells us that three brothers came the US in the 1700’s. Their names were Joseph, Thomas, and Edward Teach Commande’. The lore contends the Joseph settled in North Carolina, Thomas in South Carolina, and Edward Teach ‘sailed the seven seas’. In other words our ancestor was the notorious Blackbeard the pirate. So can I prove that? I am from the Joseph lineage. A number of years ago, I met a Commander cousin from the Thomas lineage, who asked me whether our side of the family thought they were related to Blackbeard. Proof? I think so.

Returning to a non-military life did not diminish the comments about the name Commander. Many times when I give my name there is a reaction of ‘what a cool name’. But as the late Paul Harvey would say, ‘now for the rest of the story.’ I met my wife while in the army and we were married in 1970. Now when a woman marries and changes her name, it can be positive or not so positive, depending on the ease or complexity of her new name. Also the tradition is for her last name to become her middle name. In my wife’s case, this created any amazing and often unbelievable full name. You see my wife’s maiden name was Imperial, therefore her legal name is Jeannine Imperial Commander.

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