Thursday, July 11, 2013

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.

 After dinner in the eary hours of night 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 tapes to send to him. Those audios were sent 8,000 miles away but  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 at the site where the government believed he was buried.  ( details of the information about my  dad is contained in the Newsday article dated My 22, 2012, )  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. 

Another phone call came,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, JPAC suspended all excavations at the site after my sister’s refusal to leave.  They had not found my dad, the phone call from sister earlier was not true. Within a few days a  firestorm of controversy ensued,  Vietnamese officials wanted my sister Patty to leave their country immediately.  Patty refused and became  uncooperative  so JPAC suspended the excavation.
  The U.S. Government and JPAC stated emphatically that they never found my father's remains.  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 16 months since they halted the search.  This is an outrage, where is my father? 

    There are six other children that want answers and want their father home.  Should everyone suffer because of the  actions by one? If his remains were found what has become of them? 

 What frightens me is now I may never know.  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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