Colonel John O’Grady Part 4: The Phone Call

When we loose a loved on we cling to recollections of the soothing  sound of their voice, thoughts conveyed on a piece of paper or an  image seared in our mind of a final hug, kiss or smile.  Lasting impressions that sustain us through the difficult days ahead. A soldier fighting abroad today can video chat with their children, send emails and utilize cell phones maintaining more regular contact and making the miles between them seem to disappear  for a moment.  The Vietnam War occurred in a different era , there were  no cell phones, satellites, or computers  making the distance seem even farther.

Our family maintained contact through letters and audio recordings.  Our father would send the family recordings on old reel to reel tapes.  Those  tapes were filled with loving words of encouragement and gentle reminders of what he expected of each one of us.  The sound of his voice was always soothing and comforting, for at least we knew at that very moment he was safe. 

We would anticipate receiving the tapes from our father, and upon its arrival we would impatiently wait with bated breath for the evening hours.  Because that is when we would all gather around the family room table to hear the sound of his voice and savor his words. 

 Later in the evening we would take turns putting our messages on tape to send to him. Those audios were sent 8,000 miles away but they carried with them all our hopes, wishes and dreams.  Words and phrases were construed painstakingly and contained  heart felt messages sent to a far away land.  Attached to each tape were children’s voices abound with absolute love, longing and adoration.

A phone call from my cousin, Margie in New York alerted me on May 22, 2012, that they may have found my father,  To hear her speak those words was astonishing and together we reveled in excitement at the prospect of my father, her uncle, being returned home.  The news was amazing, incredible and unbelievable that he was found  after all these years.  Margie had discovered the news  through an article published in Newsday,  I immediately searched for more information and  details about this event, which led me to discover my older sister, Patty was in Vietnam and had found the site where she believed he was buried. 
 ( details of the information she obtained to find our dad is contained in the Newsday article dated My 22, 2012, posted on this site in the background page) 

 She later told me that excavation of the site was ongoing.  Over the next few days I would receive daily updates from Patty in Vietnam, keeping me abreast of the continued search for our dads remains.  JPAC had obtained enough information to provide almost  the exact coordinates of his burial site. Information was also conveyed  that O’Grady’s dog tags were buried with him. 

Within a few days a  firestorm of controversy ensued,  Vietnamese officials wanted my sister Patty, to leave their country immediately.  Patty refused and wreaked havoc upon the excavation operations. the commendable JPAC volunteers, she became hostile and belligerent , her difficult and uncooperative behavior finally resulted in our government suspending any further search for my father’s remains.

 On May 26, 2012 at 2 am I  awoke to  a phone call that at the time I thought was life changing.  I answered the phone, still half asleep to the sound of my  sister Patty’s voice.  She was calling  from a remote village in Vietnam, she said with great excitement, “They Found Daddy”,  “They really found him” Now I was fully awake,  I was astonished and filled with incredible excitement.  45 years of penned up emotions flooded out, later  I cried for hours, they were  tears of  joy and sadness,  Sadness of a reality,  that he was dead,   joy that he would no longer be 8,000 miles away buried in an unmarked grave all alone and elated  that I would finally have the opportunity to say  goodbye and place flowers upon his grave.

It was not much later that all that elation turned to utter disappointment, Patty became hostile and belligerent towards the commendable volunteers at JPAC; her continued difficult and uncooperative behavior finally resulted in our government suspending any further search for my father’s remains.  JPAC suspended all excavations at the site.   Patty  insists she was an eyewitness to the Vietnamese Government’s recovery of O’Grady’s remains along with his ID tags.   Vietnamese officials continue to completely deny that our father was found, JPAC and other U.S. government officials state emphatically that any excavation at the site was suspended and no remains were ever discovered.  No further excavation has been reinstated, though it has been 4 months since they halted the search.  This is an outrage, where is my father?   Are theses repercussions  because my  sister refused to leave?  If his remains were found what has become of them? Why should the rest of the family be punished for one person’s unruly behavior?

What frightens me is now I may never know.  The government  can’t embarrass itself now and claim they found him back in May.  I doubt they will fabricate a sham excavation and claim they just found him.  The Vietnamese, a communist country, may be so angry over my sister’s audacious defiance that they may have just discarded Colonel O’Grady’s remains.   Sadly,  I fear my dad may be lost forever and the closure I so desperately sought may never happen.   I hope and pray that I am wrong, but as time passes the more my hopes fade. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for myself and other O’Grady family members,  Haven’t we endured enough?  Must this journey end this way? 

  His remains may be lost forever, far away in a a foreign land. My father may have been discarded,  like trash, to avoid any embarrassment or disgrace to either government.  It has been 45 years of unanswered questions and living with the unknown.  Today as I write this, it is POW/MIA Recognition Day, I still cling to hope that his remains will be returned but all the ups and downs of this are emotionally draining,  To sustain I think of him as Already Here, all around, his presence surrounding me with love.

 What a shameful act if after he made the ultimate sacrifice his  remains were discovered and yet never  returned and  repatriated.


© This material is the copyright Tara O’Grady and cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author. All rights reserved 


About coloneljohnogrady

Colonel John F. O'Grady a United States Naval Academy graduate, and aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force was shot down over Vietnam on April 10, 1967. Though he ejected from his crippled aircraft he was listed as Missing In Action. John O'Grady earned the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Two Bronze Medals and the Purple Heart. Read this heroes fascinating story and about the impact on his wife and seven children.
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