ROCKVILLE – Nowadays, some people view Veterans Day as a holiday with access to great deals and sales at local stores other than recognizing past and present military figures. That definitely cannot be said about Judy Vickers and her father Ralph Greene. The national holiday remembers the brave men and women, like local resident Ralph […]
ROCKVILLE – Nowadays, some people view Veterans Day as a holiday with access to great deals and sales at local stores other than recognizing past and present military figures.
That definitely cannot be said about Judy Vickers and her father Ralph Greene.
The national holiday remembers the brave men and women, like local resident Ralph Greene, who fought for the United States when its safety was threatened.
Greene overcame his military injuries and later made a career out of assisting the Prince George’s County Police Department solve crimes as a crime scene technician.
“The murder rate was extremely high in Prince George’s County. People would break into schools, there was so much crime going on,” Greene said. “The department would call me and we would speed down the highway to get to the crime scene.”
His daughter, Judy Vickers, 68, said he was called “The Man with the Fingerprint Dust” because no one was allowed to touch the crime scene until he got there.
“He would show up and just throw dust everywhere, all over the place,” Vickers said. “Now everyone relies on computers for everything, but his job was done manually. It is amazing to me that they ever caught anybody.”
Greene, 93, was in the United States Air Force as a teenager and traveled on planes going from San Francisco to New Guinea. One of those flights sticks in his memory.
“When the planes got shot up, we took them where they fix them. The pilot turned off two of the engines and it didn’t come back on. The plane crashed in New Guinea,” Greene said.
Greene said when he woke up his right leg was turned in the opposite direction. It took three days for the Pygmies to get him out of the jungle because they carried him out “on a stretcher made of logs.”
Vickers said when Greene first retired from the military, he worked for Trans World Airlines and also did some work for the FBI, where they enhanced what he learned about fingerprints, photography, using tape to take fingerprints off of objects and how to properly bag it.
“He started out as a guard at the D.C. jail and then worked his way up to the fingerprint division. Someone had to read it, classify it and stick it in a file, so he knew fingerprints really well,” Vickers said. “When he retired from the D.C. jail, he applied for the first civilian crime technician position, taking pictures, gathering evidence and reading and taking fingerprints.”
Vickers said before the jail hired her father, they previously hired police officers that constantly tried to take the evidence. Hence, that is why they wanted to designate a civilian to be the crime technician and Greene was one of the first.
“They used to have me up at Upper Marlboro all day while they were figuring out whether the suspect on trial was guilty or not guilty, because I had the evidence,” Greene said.
Greene later received an award from the Prince George’s County Police Department for helping to solve a robbery. He said his favorite part of his job was driving his white truck with everything in it.
“Lights, dust and everything I needed. You went in, came back out, it was perfect,” Greene said.
The stories that bothered Greene the most were the tragic events involving children.
Vickers, who was an only child, said her dad suffered a heart attack after the passing of his wife. She is proud of her dad, but “wished he had a more normal job because he would have had a healthier perception of things.”
Currently, Greene is living in the Brighton Gardens of Tuckerman Lane Assisted Living Home where he enjoys taking pictures of various events and the people who he sees every day.
“His story stands out because to have survived that kind of plane crash and then having the career that he had as a crime scene technician is unique. There were no electronics, you just sat there looking through pages and pages of fingerprints with a magnifying glass to find what you wanted and that to me is amazing,” said Anne Anderson, activities and volunteer coordinator at Brighton Gardens. “To have seen the things he has seen in his military career and professional career and still be overall a happy guy, amazes me.”
The assisted living home held its annual Veterans Day program on Nov. 11 in order to recognize each of the 26 veterans within the community. Pictures of all the veterans who served in the military were on a table in the assisted living home.
“We do that to honor them,” Anderson said.
Vickers said she couldn’t be more proud of her father thanks to the countless things he has done throughout his life.
“Everything that we have our free speech, our ability to make an income, we get that from the military because they protect our way of life and this country sometimes takes that for granted. I am proud that my dad served and proud of what he’s done,” Vickers said.