Colonel John F. O’Grady: Part 11: The Torn Photo

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I was only five years old when my father left to serve in Vietnam and barely six when his plane was shot down and he went missing.  Yet, I remember my father with great clarity and vividness as the connection between us ran deep.  My small world revolved  around him, he was my Knight in Shinning Armour.   I can clearly recall  the thrill I experienced at the prospect of any precious moments I was able to spend with my dad.   Even the trivial things were special when I shared them with him.  A ride to kindergarten, a walk, a bedtime story or a sleigh ride with my father ignited the same spark and enthusiasm  as a new bike or a trip to Disneyland.  I recollect each day waiting impatiently for his arrival home from work.  I could barely contain my excitement upon his arrival, rushing to the door to greet him, it was the highlight of my day and stirred tremendous joy within me every time. As his youngest daughter; I epitomized the  term; “Daddy’s Little Girl”

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We shared a unique attachment; one that not time, distance or separation could quell.   He nicknamed me “Love” as  I always showered him with affection and our  strong bond was timeless and endless.  I can recall once when I  was just barely 4 years of age, I had drifted into the mental state just between consciousness and sleep.  My father had arrived home late that evening, my mother saw me lying there in the playroom and told my dad to carry me to my bed.  As his strong arms lifted me up and he began to move me, I felt such peace, joy and tranquility, I can still hear my mothers whispers.” shh, quietly do not wake her”  I continued to feign sleep because  the comfort I felt in his arms was an amazing feeling of happiness and solace.

  My recollections are not just of memories but also of emotions evoked when I think of our time together. When I was near my dad I was overcome with a sense of safety and  security and most of all I felt utterly and completely loved and accepted by him. He made me feel important and unique..  My time with him helped me to gain self confidence, he believed in me and as a result I believed in myself.  

 

In later years I would derive strength from those early days with my dad.   My father’s love and guidance would carry me through many future storms in my life.  When I was faced with long days and endless nights of self doubt, failures and hopelessness, when tragedy stared me in the face and when I was ready to give up it was the recollection of my father that sustained me and rekindled my faith. I would encounter many dark moments throughout my life but somehow my memories helped me gain resolution which enabled me to move forward. The following is just one inconsequential story of many that my dad influenced in my life; A poignant moment in time:

For 35 years I  possessed only one photo of my father.  It was an old black and white picture of him wearing his flight suit, standing in front of his plane.  It was one of my most treasured possessions,  I always kept it in a frame hanging on my wall or sitting upon my mantle in every home I ever resided.  Whenever I relocated, it never felt like home until his photo adorned the house. 

 

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Many years later in my life I married a man,  tall and smart like my father, and he instantly charmed me with his wiles.  I rushed into that marriage to my detriment.  After we married another side to this man appeared, one that could be cruel and insensitive.  He ridiculed  and belittled me and in time eroded my self worth.  Later his abuse was more blatant and his  displays of anger became more violent.  It was a slow progression that weakened my determination and self reliance.  Eventually debilitating all my will and inclination making it difficult break the cycle of violence and assert self determination.
The domestic violence progressed until it became a way of life to which I grew accustomed.  I made repeated unsuccessful  attempts  to end the marriage and break from him completely. Using my children as my excuse, I continually enabled him to slowly finagle his way back into our lives. I had allowed myself to become a victim of emotional, verbal  and physical abuse and I felt trapped, helpless and suffocated by his clever maneuvers. One day everything changed, a single moment in time would  become an awakening, my clarity, my salvation and my new beginning.

He was angry over something trivial again, and he grabbed the framed photo of my father,  He knew it was my only photo of my father, he was  keenly aware of my dad’s story and he realized the significance of that picture. He grabbed it off the wall, took the photo from its frame, threw the glass frame to the floor, the shattering glass felt like shards of glass ripping through my heart.  I stood there frozen, feeling  powerless as he took the photo from its frame.  He proceeded to rip the picture, as tears streamed down my face I grabbed the two remaining pieces of that photograph from his hands, determined to stop him from  tearing it any further,  I ran as fast as I could.

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Finally, I felt I was far enough away to be safe, and I sat down and cried, and stared at the photo of my dad.  It seemed my father’s eyes were glaring back at me and I suddenly realized  how far I had retreated from my father’s love and how far I had strayed from his belief in me.  In those early years he had taught me to be strong and self assured, he instilled in me the belief that I could achieve anything,  I had gained inner strength and confidence from him,  Yet, I married a man that had shredded my self esteem. This brief second of clarity made a lasting impression. I suddenly knew what  I  had to do. I would take back my life by making a clean break. 

 

Later I taped the two pieces of  the photograph  back together , hung it back upon my wall and then began the process of repairing the broken fragments of my life and healing my heart and soul~

I left my marriage behind in the ruins where it belonged, I took the necessary  steps to protect myself and my children and never once looked back.  That night  I felt my fathers presence , I knew he was  near.  He was conveying a message to me;  I was deserving and worthy of love and happiness. A message that stood in stark contrast to the words of a man that belittled, ridiculed and humiliated me and helped me feel worthless and unloved. I faced the following days with a new found courage and determination.

 

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The photo still hangs on my wall and the torn piece, taped together is a constant reminder not to let self doubt overcome me,  and to never loose sight of what traits are truly important to possess and to never let anyone undermine these characteristics; dignity, integrity and self worth.

Ironically, this photo was posted on some of my personal websites, but ended up copied by others and ended up on other sites, and even in newspaper articles:  Yet, I was the only one who was aware of the tear in the left upper corner and the meaning behind it, I’m sure others never even noticed!

© 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

 

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Colonel John F. O’Grady; The Two Bracelets

The Two Bracelets

My father, Colonel John F. O’Grady was listed as Missing In Action in 1967 after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam and he parachuted into enemy territory.

As the years passed and I still lived with uncertainty not knowing the fate of my dad. I searched for a way to honor and remember my dad, There had was never a funeral or memorial service, I possesed only one photo of my dad and a letter he wrote to me just prior to being shot down. I clung to that letter for years until it was lost in a fire.

I wanted to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall desperately., I wanted to tell my dad, I loved him, missed him and thank him for his sacrifice. My children were very young and finances were meager so I was unable to travel to the Wall.

This was around 03 or 04 and I had discovered there was a Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall on the internet, so I decided I could at least view his name. After locating my dad’s name on the virtual wall I noticed a memorial page where people could posts comments. I started to read the few posts upon my dad’s page and found Diane Fairben’s post about her years of wearing an MIA bracelet bearing my father’s name. She stated she had grown up in the same small town just down the street from my dad. She had worn the bracelet bearing my father’s name faithfully for many years. She sent her thoughts and prayers to our family. It was a very touching post and I was so moved that I decided to search for Diane.

I eventually found Diane on Facebook and sent her a message to thank her for her support of my dad and our family. After finding Diane, I was heartbroken to learn that she had lost her son, Keith Fairben on 9/11, he was an EMT Worker at the World Trade Towers in New York:

Diane and I maintained some contact through Facebook and despite her tremendous loss she was concerned for me and wished she still had my dads bracelet so she could give it to me, but was lost many years earlier. Despite her tremendous loss she showed great concern and empathy for me, which amazed and impressed me. She asked me if I would like to wear Keith’s bracelet and I said “yes” as it would be a great honor to wear this amazing hero’s name upon my wrist.

Before Diane was able to send me the bracelet a sequence of incredible events occurred. A cousin of Keith’s called Diane requesting some specific items that belonged to Keith, Subsequently Diane went searching through many boxes to retrieve the items the cousin had asked for, and suddenly my dads bracelet appeared. She had not seen it in many years and had no idea where it was or even if she still had it. Subsequently, Diane sent me both bracelets and I wear both bracelets today with great pride. I believe some kind of intervention happened that day.

Keith Fairben is a true American Hero! Diane and I connected because of our shared loss, and I believe Keith and my father have connected in heaven in the special place held for heroes.

Keith was a 24 year old volunteer firefighter and an EMT worker from Floral Park, New York. On 9/11 he was working as a paramedic when the first plane hit the Tower. Keith fairben rushed to the towers so he could help save others.

His dad, Kenneth Fairben, a firefighter, recalled the last time he spoke to his son. When I called him he told me he was very busy at the Towers and to call back later. Kenneth Fairben says he told his son Keith to stay safe and those were the last words he ever spoke to him.

Keith Fairben, a great hero will never be forgotten!

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Colonel John F. O’Grady; Part 8: Return of the Prisoners

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Nothing can produce emotion, passion and controversy like war. How could anyone ever forget the scene of a returning POW from Vietnam kissing the ground as he first set foot on U.S. soil after years of captivity, and the thrill of watching…his wife and children run across the tarmac and into his open arms? When a soldier comes home, it is a joyous reunion.
War also claims victims and produces often untold suffering. Men and women are killed, and their loved ones mourn. Taps, flags, military funerals, tears of sadness and shattered dreams are all products of war.

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I can recall between  February and April of 1973, “Operation Homecoming”.  The prisoners of war from Vietnam were coming home.  I was barely 11 years old, and I sat glued to a tiny black and white TV, that my older sister was lucky enough to possess at the nightmarish orphanage. (Nazareth House in San Diego, California) that myself and two of my siblings had been deserted at.  I had to watch in secret, filled with fear of  grave reprisal  by the sadistic people that ran  this extremely strick regimented  and abusive group home.
As each soldier exited the plane onto American soil, I hoped and prayed that the next one might be my dad.  For days upon days, I watched these joyous reunions, praying, begging and pleading for my daddy to come home.  The tears began to flow with each passing hour. After days I was overcome with feelings of forlorn as hopes, wishes and dreams slowly dissipated.

I finally realized my father, my hero, would not be coming home.  It was devastating and the enormity of the impact on my life was tremendous,.  I would never gaze upon my father’s face again, or feel his comforting arms around me. I would wither and die in this abusive orphanage scared, lonely and sad.  I began to cry…..

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Colonel John F. O’Grady A Lost Hero

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Colonel John O’Grady Part 6: Danny Boy

One of John O’Grady‘s favorite songs was, “O Danny Boy” Once he realized he would be going to war, he sang this special tune to his youngest child, my little brother, Danny O’Grady.  He would sit each night on 3 year old Danny’s bedside, singing with his heart and soul.  For years after my father went missing, Danny would plead for someone to sing “O Danny Boy” to him so he could fall asleep. So each night my mother or an older sibling would lull Danny into his slumber by singing that very special song~

The following are the lyrics to the song Danny Boy:

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling From glen to glen, and down the mountain side The summer’s gone, and all the flowers dying ‘Tis you, ’tis you must go and I must bide.But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow’ Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.But when you come and all the roses fallen And I am dead, as dead I well may be

Go out and find the place where I am lying And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.And I will hear, tho’ soft your tread above me And then my grave will warm and sweeter be For you shall bend and tell me that you love me

And I will sleep in peace until you come to me.

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Colonel John O’Grady Part 5: The Parents

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HE WAS THEIR ONLY CHILD

  John Martin O’Grady and Fraces V. O’Grady were the parents of Colonel O’Grady. They were both born at the turn of the 20th century and were married for over 55 years.  They dreamed of a large family but were only able to have one child.  They placed all their future hopes and dreams with  their son, Jack.  They believed in America and all the promises it held.  They felt it was important to give back to a country that had provided them with so much.  So they enrolled their son in Military School, to teach him the importance of family and country.

  John Martin O’Grady immigrated, on a crowded boat, from  Limerick, Ireland with his large family when he was only 8 years old.  He eventually had to drop out of school to help support his family. He worked hard and became a self reliant and self educated man.   Those years of having to work hard in factories at a young age made him aware of a deeply flawed system for American workers.

 

 

It was the early 1900’s and John Martin saw so much unnecessary suffering among his fellow workers, dangerous and hazardous working conditions;  unsafe environments,, long hours, low pay and the exploitation of children. He realized the problem was prevalent throughout factories, sweat houses, warehouses, offices and stores.

 

He decided something needed to be done so he took action.  He felt workers needed someone to assist them, represent them against greedy companies.  He pounded the pavement, starting a grassroots effort to unionize his fellow workers. After years of constant struggle he was able to succeed.  He made it his mission to assure that workers were provided a safe and secure place to work and their labor be fairly compensated.  It was a tough battle as “Union Busting” was common practice during that era. He continued on despite the many obstacles he faced daily. 

 

Threats, intimidation and  harassment  occurred regularly against anyone daring to attempt any form of unionization.  John Martin O’Grady was fearless and tenacious and after countless battles eventually prevailed.  Many years later he would go on to  be President of a major Workers Rights Union.  His son, Colonel John O’Grady inherited that same courage and determination.

 

 

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Frances V. O’Grady epitomized compassion and concern for others, she was the quintessential caregiver.  She took care of all her families needs in a grand manner and precise detail.  With Frances (Mema) as we called her, there was no lack of nurturing for all.  She even took in others; when her brother could no longer care for his kids after his wife passed away, she took both his children, Noreen and Girard into her home and raised them.  She also cared for her younger sister Dorothy until the day she  passed away.

 

 John and Frances’s boy Jack was the light of their life and the day he went missing they were truly crushed and devastated. They stood vigil for years for their son, attempting to uncover information on what happened to him. They organized and rallied on his behalf. They never gave up hope and worked tirelessly to seek answers.

They also provided great comfort and support to their seven grandchildren.

 

 Every summer the O’Grady children would  fly out to stay with them at their home, in East Moriches, on Long Island New York.

 

After O’Grady went missing, his family was in disarray; stress, resentments, anxiety and frustrations filled the home.  On the contrary, the summers at their grandparents were filled with carefree abandon.  They were surrounded by love and felt safe and  secure. They enjoyed abundant days and peaceful nights.  Those summers created cherished childhood memories from the  bright, lazy days spent at their home in “East Moriches.

 

  The children formed deeper bonds with their grandparents.  They also connected to much of the extended family, especially their cousins, The Hudsons’,  The Hudson Family consisted of  Aunt Noreen’s 7 children, all the same ages as the 7 O’Grady children. They would  spend days with them  at that summer house which created a deep and unique connection.

 

John Martin O’Grady died in August of 1985, before his death he felt defeated in his journey to find his son. He once  stated, “They tell me he was lost to war, but I saw him here just yesterday – a brown-haired, happy lad on his way to play. Just yesterday . . .” After a long battle with cancer Frances O’Grady lapsed into a coma on April 10, 1987, exactly 20 years after her only child went missing. Three days later she died. Sadly, they both passed heartbroken without ever knowing the fate of their son.

 

There wish was if he was alive, that he be brought home safe and sound, if he was dead, that his remains be returned for a proper burial and memorial service, so deserving of a man that laid down his life for his country.

 

The O’Grady Family still struggles to fulfill our grandparents last wish.  We must never rest until he is home~

 

 

© 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 

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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.

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© 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 

 
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Colonel John O’Grady; A Soldier’s Daughter

547431_562455203787039_260560916_nOn April 10, 1967 Col. O’Grady scribbled a letter to his 6 year old daughter, Tara. In his hurry to conclude, he had a mission to complete, he wrote, “Daddy is flying a lot and the more he flies the sooner he will be home for good and that’s what he wants more than anything else in the world, so he can give out great big hugs and kisses to everyone, but especially to little girls in the first grade. who won’t be in the first grade much longer.”

Colonel John O’Grady managed to place the letter into the out box just prior to flying his 31st mission over North Vietnam, as he put the letter in the box he did not realize it would be the last letter he would write!

Prior to the letter arriving to its destination of, Las Vegas, Nevada, the O’Grady’s family home, even before Tara was able to read the loving words her dad had written, two uniformed men knocked at the door. Those officers came to inform Tara and her family that John O’Grady’s plane was shot down and he was missing.

It would be years before Tara realized the full impact and extent of the devastating consequences resulting from this tragedy.

I am Tara O’Grady, a proud soldier’s daughter, and I recall the close bond and and attachment I shared with my father. I remember vividly the early morning he left our home to serve in Vietnam. He walked into my bedroom and sat upon my bed, he kissed and hugged me tightly as tears streamed down his face. He said goodbye and told me to stay in bed because it was too early to get up. A few minutes later he walked out the front door and I could not heed my father’s direction to remain in bed. I tiptoed out of my bedroom and proceeded to the living room. I pressed my face against the window, as tears welled up, I watched my father drive away. It was the last time I would ever see my dad.

For 20 years I re- read that letter hundreds of times, memorizing each and every precious word until it was lost forever in storage fire. I lost many things in the blaze that day, but none of the items scorched that terrible day ,affected me as much as loosing my Father’s Letter. The loss of my dads letter filled me with great despair, to know I would never be able to read his last words again was unbearable.

I kept vigil for my dad, I tried to keep hopes embers burning by staying faithful in my belief that his last wish to come home would someday come true.

I longed for, prayed for and dreamed of my dad everyday. I tried to wish him home to no avail. I attempted through the years to obtain information about my dad. I was told his plane was shot down, but not anything else, I did not know if was alive or dead. Obstacles that included family, lies, government and personal tragedies kept me from learning any further information about my dad for 40 plus years.

The Air Force ceased providing me with any information or documents at all, after a fraudulent call made by my someone claiming to be me stating “I do not want to received any further updates about my dad.” How could someone be that cruel, leaving me in the dark and filled with uncertainty? I remained in total abyss for many years wondering if my dad could be alive, alone, scared or suffering.

Through hope, prayers, sheer determination and the generosity of some caring strangers, I slowly obtained bits of information about my dad. For over 40 years I asked, Did He Suffer? Is He Alive? Is He Dead? Is he buried somewhere? I did not get many answers and the few answers I received just led to more questions. I was never able to say goodbye but I was determined to someday pay homage to my dad.

Twenty years after my father went missing in Vietnam and my family disintegrated from the emotional turmoil and stress, I would have to endure another tragedy even more devastating..

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On January 30, 1987 my first child was born, I named her LeaAnna. When my daughter was born I was brimming with joy and excitement. An instant bond occurred and I felt a deep love I had never known before. After the birth of my baby girl, I became a mother and experienced intense new wonderful emotions. I loved this beautiful little girl with every inch of my being. The following days were filled with great happiness, I derived so much pleasure from caring for, watching over and holding this amazing child. When I stared into her eyes I could see my father’s reflection looking back. The bond I felt with LeaAnna reminded me of the close bond I shared with my dad.

The ecstasy I felt every single day after her birth was short lived, six weeks later my world would be shattered. On March 4, 1987 after spending some quality time with my baby, changing, dressing, feeding & playing with her. I lay down upon the couch to take a short nap with her wrapped in my arms. I awoke 20 minutes later to an indescribable nightmare. My daughters face was blue. I panicked, screamed & called 911. I held her close as I awaited for help and It seemed like an eternity. Finally, a police officer arrived and began CPR and by the time the ambulance appeared her heart had re-started which provided me with false comfort and hope. When we arrived at the first hospital they said I should talk to her because she was able to hear me. Through oceans of tears I whispered, “I love you, I need you, please come back to me. I continued, “I am sorry, Please God, give her back to me.” To gaze upon my beautiful baby girl and see her hooked up to so many machines was extremely shocking and devastating. I wanted desperately to believe she would be alright, I prayed harder than I ever had before, I wanted and needed my baby girl to live.

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Later they transported her by helicopter, Life Flight, to a Children’s Hospital where she could receive better care. As we drove the lengthy arduous trip to the Children’s Hospital, I stared out the window despondent as despairing thoughts engulfed my mind. When we finally reached the hospital and rushed to my daughter’s side, the doctor pulled me aside and said, my daughter was brain dead and insisted she be taken off of life support. I did not want to do that, I could not give up on my child. I must keep faith and hope, just as I did 20 years earlier to never desert my dad, to hope & pray that he was still alive.

I went to the chapel to pray and when I came back they told me I could see my girl. I walked into her hospital room, sat upon her bed grief stricken at the sight of her lying there so still. I wept, prayed, pleaded, screamed and begged for her to live. The machines were deafening and I was heartbroken and felt utterly helpless, seeing my precious baby hooked to them.

A few minutes later the nurse asked if I would like to hold her, “Of course I wanted to hold my baby now and forever” The nurse proceeded to place her in my arms, to feel her tiny body so close to mine was comforting and provided a moment of serenity. Suddenly alarms were blaring and the sound startled me back to reality. Afterwards I realized they were removing her from life support, I was stunned and shocked because no one had informed they were going to do that and I had never consented.

As I swaddled her near my heart I felt my baby’s spirit leave her body and fly away. As she slowly drifted away from me I felt desperate knowing there was not anything I could do stop it. I would have done anything, I would have given up my own life to save hers. How do you say goodbye to your child? I just wrapped her near to me and sobbed while holding her for as long as they would permit. I was devastated, heartbroken, and inconsolable in a manner that is inexplicable to others. My baby girl, LeaAnna Marie, my precious child, the love of my life died that day on March 30, 1987. My life would never be the same and I would never recover from her loss.

While I remained grief stricken and filled with despair from the incomprehensible loss of my daughter, my grandmother was very ill with cancer. Frances O’Grady was Col. O’Grady’s mother, he was her only child. On April 10, 1987 my grandmother was hospitalized and lapsed into a coma, exactly 20 years from the date her only child went missing. She died 3 days later on April 13. 1987. She died sadly never knowing the fate of her son, not certain if he was alive or dead.

I believe on the terrible day that my daughter left this world, my dad received a piece of me in Heaven, and welcomed LeaAnna with open arms. My grandmother arrived shortly after LeaAnna so she could help my dad to take care of my baby girl.

My grandmother and daughter have serene, tranquil resting places but not my father. I still lived with not knowing the fate of my dad.

I was a soldier’s daughter and I was not going to let my father die and anonymous death, an unsung hero, a forgotten warrior, a lost casualty of war or an unknown soldier. I needed to know if he was dead or alive. I needed to honor his memory and tell his story. Eventually, I learned he died a prisoner of war…died in captivity. I still seek closure; How can a man be gone forever and never buried? Now I tell his story through websites and other avenues until the final chapter occurs. I so desperately want to kneel at his grave site, say a prayer, place a rose and leave my father to lie in peace on the soil of his homeland. His remains must be returned home to his family where he belongs. He need to rest on American soil. There was never a funeral of Memorial Service for my father, I was never able to say goodbye.He deserves the honor and respect of a full military honors funeral and to be buried in a solemn place.

I never gave up then~I will never give up~

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The Story of Colonel John O’Grady POW/MIA

John O’Grady was born on August 31, 1929 in New Hyde Park, New York to Irish immigrants. He attended La Salle High School, a prestigious, private Military Academy. He attained the top ranking of his class, reaching the top ten of all students attending H.S. Military Academies across the country. His incredible academic achievements earned him an automatic appointment to Annapolis; “The United States Naval Academy.” He majored in Aeronautical Engineering and graduated with honors at the top of his class in 1952.

He served in the United States Air Force with excellence, and in addition to being an engineer he also became a jet fighter pilot. Later O’Grady earned his Masters Degree in Aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. O’Grady was a heavy weight champion boxer and a track star at Annapolis. He loved flying and earned his pilot license at 14 years old even before he was able to drive. He was a tall man standing 6’3″ in bare feet with curly brown hair and hazel eyes with a hint of Irish green. He was highly intelligent, very athletic and a devoted uncle, father, son and husband. He had high moral standards and lived his life with great integrity, and had a strong faith in God and his country.

He married his high school sweetheart, Diana Pascale, in 1952 and over the next 14 years they had seven children. As a father he embodied compassion and strength utilizing strict yet gentle discipline. He lived his life with honor, passion and integrity. He had an amazing zest for life and learning and instilled that fervor for life in his children. As an Air Force family the O’Grady’s relocated every couple of years, but the Colonel worked hard to ensure smooth transitions with as little disruption to the children’s lives as possible. They moved with the precision, discipline and strength of a typical military family. When the family would settle into their new neighborhood, he would encourage the kids to make the best of it, by making new friends, involvement in sports, school activities and by working hard to succeed.

Colonel O’Grady loomed large among his family as his career reached amazing pinnacles. In addition to his Masters Degree in Engineering, he had specialized training and expertise in the anti-ballistic weapons systems on the F-4 aircraft that he helped to design. O’Grady also worked on the Saturn and Jupiter rocket booster system at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, that put the first monkeys into space.

He could also be a free spirited child at heart, One childhood memory, I recall, that exemplifies this trait was when he dressed up at Halloween as the Great Pumpkin. Dressed in his homemade costume he’d venture out to surprise all the neighborhood kids. He interacted with us by playing games, nature walks, reading us stories and by listening. He taught us many lessons of life and living, manners, respect, loyalty and honor. He encouraged us to work hard, explore, learn, teach, achieve, question and seek answers. Most importantly he lived his life in an exemplary manner for his children to emulate.

Another memory is during Christmas he would lead all 7 children in wonderful rendition of the song “The Little Drummer Boy” using instruments, he would conduct the family orchestra. He taught us about family unity, community, strength and persistence. I recall every time it snowed he would take us and all the neighborhood kids on sleigh rides down the steep hills. He was a very loving involved, hands on Dad!

Colonel O’Grady was an aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force when his plane, a F105D, was hit by enemy rockets and caught fire over North Vietnam. On April 10, 1967, he radioed, ”I’m on Fire and I’m getting out.”

Forty five years ago, Col. O’Grady, was flying his 31st mission over, the Mu Gia Pass, when he realized he was off of his intended target. he did not want to drop the bomb
in a careless or reckless manner, endangering innocent villagers. So He decided to abort and make a second attempt at his target which made him vulnerable to enemy fire.

As a result his plane was shot down and his parachute was sighted deploying but with all the surrounding smoke O’Grady could not be seen. No rescued mission ensued and he was listed as Missing In Action. John O’Grady left behind grieving parents, a lost and lonely wife, seven confused and desperate children, and many friends and relatives that missed him greatly.

My name is Tara O’Grady and I am the youngest daughter of Col. O’Grady’s four daughters and three sons. For over 40 years I lived with uncertainty and hopelessness while I clung to embers of hope that he may come home. The only report ever provided to me was the original details of the day my father was shot down. His plane was on fire, he radioed for help, a parachute was seen and that was the end of the story, at least as far as I knew. I wondered for years about the specifics of my father’s journey. Had he been a prisoner and died feeling abandoned in some prison camp? Did he encounter the enemy and suffer a terrible death? Was he alive somewhere?

The feelings of uncertainty, helplessness, lack of information and knowledge I incurred for so many years exacerbated my feelings of despair and concern for what happened to my dad. Yet, during those years, our government had uncovered bits of new information culminating in a Detailed Report Investigation dated March 29, 2012, a report that contained critical information that I never received. That report contained details surrounding the capture, death and burial of my father. I did not receive any information about my dad until after I took the initiative and insisted with dogged persistence. I received the report in June of 2012.

On May 22, 2012, just prior to Memorial Day, 45 years after my dad went missing, I received a phone call from a cousin in New York, she excitedly tells me ,”They may have found your dad.” She had just read an article in The Newsday Paper in Long Island New York. It contained a detailed story of the events surrounding my father’s capture and later death. The article detailed my sister Patty’s journey to find his grave and bring him home! I was shocked, saddened, elated, confused but mostly devastated. Mixed emotions swirled in my head, Why did I not know anything about this? Why did I learn about my father from a newspaper article.? The Air Force had not informed me, family members had not told me anything, and though I was in constant contact with my sister, she never mentioned her planned trip to Vietnam or relayed any information uncovered about our dad. Yet, earlier on April 10, 2012, on the 45th anniversary of my father’s plane being shot down we reminisced about him. How could she do this?

The following is the information contained in the reports;

Two villagers found and captured Major O’Grady, his hands were entangled in his parachute which rendered him helpless and unable to use his radio to call for assistance. O’Grady was bleeding from a scalp wound, and he had a broken leg. Later he was sitting up and trying to talk to Ho Huan and the group of five villagers.

Just outside the village – Ho Huan explained – they had no choice but to turn him over to two North Vietnamese engineers attached to the 152nd engineering unit to to transport him to the 280th air defense regiment field headquarters. Ho Huan said that when they transferred Major O’Grady to the engineers, he was alive and not seriously injured.

O’Grady was transferred from the the villagers to the Vietnamese soldiers. One of those soldiers, Thiet, recounts having to take away a photo from O’Grady, which appeared to be of his wife and daughters. Thiet stated O’Grady clung tightly to the picture and was adamantly refusing to give it up. Thiet took it from O’Grady’s hand, recalling the incident so vividly because of the great reluctance the American soldier demonstrated.

Vo Dinh An and Nguyen Huy Thiet, the two engineers with the 152nd regiment of North Vietnam were interviewed by US officials and they recounted how they were told to transport O’Grady’s to a hospital, The soldiers did not have a vehicle so they carried him on a litter. They told of how O’Grady’s condition worsened during the arduous trip to the hospital. As they crossed the stream outside Y Lenh, Major O’Grady gestured that he was thirsty. Ho Huan said they did not give him any water because they had no cup. Throughout the long journey across the mountainside, John O’Grady was sitting up, animated, and talking to Ho Huan, and the others, although they could not understand him. As they approached Y Lenh, he fell silent. He stated that later he lost consciousness and died ..

They carried him a short distance up a hill, at the top was a Star Fruit Tree, using it a as a reference point, they buried him in an old bomb crater. They buried him with his shorts, shirts and his ID dog tags so he could be identified later and someday be returned to his family. The Vietnamese soldiers were Buddhist and the believe if a person’s body is not returned to his family they will haunt the earth.

After the government received this information, Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) began excavation of the alleged burial site. Patty O’Grady traveled to Vietnam and stood vigil at the burial site and JPAC requested she please leave. Patty refused and remained, interfering with JPAC’s work. Finally, JPAC was forced to suspend the excavation process. It has been over a year since they stopped looking for his remains because of one person. The government knows where he may be buried, Please go get my Father. Our family awaits

Later, O’Grady would go on to have 19 grandchildren that sadly will never know how amazing their grandfather was. Yet, each O’Grady grandchild carries on his legacy by living their lives with great courage and inner strength. They inherited his great work ethic and have each achieved great success in their own lives.

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