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Reuniting With My POW Father After Thinking He Was Dead For 3 Years

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
July 21, 2022 3:00 am

Reuniting With My POW Father After Thinking He Was Dead For 3 Years

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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July 21, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, writer Anne Clare remembers the loss of the USS Utah and Oklahoma and the men who served on them on December 7th, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Genevieve Church, the third "Goat Lady of San Francisco", is the executive director of City Grazing. Listen to her share about how this sustainable land management and fire prevention non-profit organization came to be. Retired US Navy Captain Mike McDaniel takes us back to when he was just a boy in the 3rd grade and about to learn that his dad was shot down on his 81st combat mission over Vietnam. 

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Time Codes: 

00:00 - USS Oklahoma and Utah: Two of the Ships Destroyed at Pearl Harbor

10:00 - City Grazing: The Landscape Management Company Powered by Goats

35:00 - Reuniting With My POW Father After Thinking He Was Dead For 3 Years

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This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show, including yours.

Send them to OurAmericanStories.com for some of our favorites. Up next, a story from our regular contributor, Anne Claire. Anne is a choir teacher, organist, and a great writer on all things World War II history. Today she shares with us the story of two ships sunk at the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Take it away, Anne. The island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii has a huge place in American history, particularly in the history of America's involvement in World War II. The Japanese attacks on December 7, 1941, which launched the U.S. into the war, took place on that island.

These attacks did a great deal of damage and caused a great loss of life, as well as the complete losses of three ships, the USS Arizona, the USS Utah, and the USS Oklahoma. The Arizona Memorial is open to the general public as part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and it's an excellent place to visit and to remember those who were lost. Unlike the Arizona Memorial, the Utah and the Oklahoma Memorials are actually found on Ford Island, which is still used by the military as part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. So to see these memorials, one needs special permission, or if you're fortunate enough, as we were military friends stationed in the area who will act as escort. The resting place of the Utah is a rather lonely and unassuming place.

When we visited, our party had the little parking area to ourselves. By 1941, the Utah was already past her prime. Launched in 1909, she served in World War I. She was demilitarized in 1931 and repurposed as a target ship for training. The Utah was on the opposite side of Ford Island from the Arizona and other prime targets for Japanese planes. Just why she ended up having six torpedoes fired on her is an open question. Perhaps it was a case of mistaken identity, but whatever the reason, 64 of the training ship's officers and crew were lost. It might have been more if Lieutenant Commander Solomon Isquith hadn't organized a rescue crew when he and others who'd escaped heard the frantic knocking on the hull of survivors trapped inside.

Braving Japanese planes still strafing the harbor, they returned to their sunken ship to cut the hull open and save those they could. The Utah was never salvaged. It still rests in Pearl Harbor as part of its own memorial, entombing those who went down with her. The original memorial for the Utah was a plaque mounted on the wrecked remains.

A new memorial was built in 1972. The simple white structure offers a close view of the ship's remains. Below the raised American flag, a plaque commemorates those who were lost. Like the Arizona survivors, survivors of the Utah have the option of having their ashes returned to the ship upon their passing to join those who never left. The memorial for the USS Oklahoma is also found on Ford Island. Unlike the Utah, the USS Oklahoma was still a fully active battleship. On the morning of December 7, 1941, she was tied up just down Battleship Row from the Arizona. Struck by at least nine torpedoes, it took only 13 minutes for the Oklahoma to capsize.

Sailors tried to evacuate over the starboard side, but as she rolled over, hundreds were trapped inside. There are many stories of bravery from the Oklahoma's tragedy. Honors given to her crew include two posthumous Medals of Honor and one Navy Cross.

One award particularly caught my eye as it was given just a couple of years ago. It was given to Father Aloysius H. Schmidt. He had just finished morning mass and was reportedly hearing confession on board at the USS Oklahoma when the first torpedoes hit. He assisted 12 sailors to escape through a porthole. When he attempted his own escape, he became stuck.

Hearing other sailors in the compartment behind him, he insisted on being pushed back into the doomed vessel so that others could escape. His remains were identified recently and his family was awarded his posthumous Silver Star in 2017. Those who escaped the Oklahoma worked frantically for days to cut through the ship's hull to rescue trapped survivors, but in spite of their best efforts, they were only able to rescue 32.

All told, the Oklahoma suffered 429 losses, the second highest loss of life after the Arizona. In memory of those lives lost, 429 white marble pillars stand at the Oklahoma Memorial. A blackstone marker at the memorial sums up the meaning of the place best. A portion of it reads, manning the rails. As Navy vessels pass through Pearl Harbor, sailors and Marines stand at attention along the ship's railing and superstructure. The crew's dress uniforms contrast sharply against the gray vessels. In full dress uniform, the ship's crew stands at attention in a display of respect and honor, coming home for a final time by manning the rails.

Those white marble pillars are meant to represent those missing crew members who will no longer be able to man their ship's rails. The USS Oklahoma herself no longer rests in Pearl Harbor. The Navy attempted to salvage her, patching and refloating her.

However, the damage was too great. The Oklahoma was decommissioned in 1944. She was sold for scrap.

However, en route to the west coast, she broke her toe and sank the 17th of May, 1947. I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to pay my respects at these memorials. If you ever have that opportunity, I definitely recommend a visit as well as we remember lives lost and sacrifices given as people fought and struggled to preserve the freedoms that we cherish.

You did a beautiful job on the production by Monty and a special thanks to Ann Claire for sharing the stories of the USS Utah and Oklahoma here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history from war to innovation, culture and faith are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

Go to Hillsdale.edu to learn more. Geico asks, how would you love a chance to save some money on insurance? Of course you would. And when it comes to great rates on insurance, Geico can help. Like with insurance for your car, truck, motorcycle, boat and RV. Even help with homeowners or renters coverage. Plus add an easy to use mobile app, available 24 hour roadside assistance and more and Geico is an easy choice. Switch today and see all the ways you could save.

It's easy. Simply go to Geico.com or contact your local agent today. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, you'll meet Genevieve Church. Genevieve runs a very unique business in San Francisco. That is City Grazing. City Grazing is a sustainable land management organization powered by goats.

Here's Genevieve to tell us about how the business came to be. And also the history of goats in San Francisco, beginning with Estelle West, the first goat lady. Goats in San Francisco have a long history and women raising goats in San Francisco.

There is a long history. Estelle West was raising goats and you know, she was at a time when having livestock for meat, for milk was relatively common still in the Bay Area. But she was one of the last people who was actually in San Francisco proper, raising her animals and making her living from them.

San Francisco was busily becoming a city and didn't want livestock within city limits anymore. Estelle West was quite a character apparently and loved to flout authority and she just wanted to keep raising goats the way her family had been. And so she was a mild criminal, shall we say, in keeping her goats in places where the city didn't really want goats kept. After her, this very sweet woman that I met who was the second goat lady of San Francisco, she had been raising goats on Potrero Hill, which was a little bit less of a settled area in San Francisco. When she was a kid, her family had about five or six goats, sometimes as many as 15.

They didn't have as large of a herd and they were not dependent on them for their income, but they were a part of their family's income stream. And when the city was laying the first sidewalks in Potrero Hill, her goats got out and ran across the newly laid cement and left goat hoofmarks in San Francisco's first sidewalk in Potrero Hill. She got in a lot of trouble. They made her family get rid of their goats.

I met her when she was in her 80s. And so I'm really happy to get to carry on the tradition of livestock in San Francisco and goats in San Francisco. And of course it's also an honor to get to be the third crazy goat lady of San Francisco. I'm the executive director of City Grazing. We are the last local herd of working animals in the city. We actually take in retired dairy goats and we give them kind of a second lease on life.

All they have to do for us is eat for a living. So they go out, they eat a lot of the brush that's unwanted, a lot of the invasive vegetation that we have, and both reduce fire hazard and improve the health of some of our small local forests in San Francisco. City Grazing was started as a little bit of just a fun side project by a man named David Gavrich who owned an industrial waste management company. And he thought it would be a fun way to advertise their commitment to green methods and to keeping their waste processing very clean by having a herd of goats that actually lived on site next door to the Waste Processing Center. It's pretty common in California to see goats grazing on the side of the freeways. So there are a few different companies in California that do large-scale goat grazing. These are companies that have a thousand animals or up to four thousand animals and graze in really big areas alongside like chevrons processing plants, alongside the freeways, alongside some of the wind farms and solar farms in California.

These are really common companies that use grazing animals to keep their fire hazard down. And David saw that, thought it would be a lot of fun to do on a small scale in the city. So he started with just a few goats, didn't really think much about how goats multiply, ended up pretty quickly having 40 goats and at that point was renting them out. He was renting them to backyards and that was in 2008 that he got started.

I came on board in 2012. I answered a very random Craigslist ad. I had just moved back into San Francisco, was looking for a new career and found a very unusual ad that said, write us a paragraph, tell us why you're qualified to take care of our 40 goats in Bayview while our current goat herd goes home on vacation for six weeks. And I thought, no one has 40 goats in Bayview.

Bayview is an industrial part of the city. And I was just like, I have to see this. I grew up on a cattle ranch. I'd been around animals most of my childhood and I never really thought I'd work with them again.

So I randomly answered this ad and we just kind of hit it off. David and I got along very well. The goats definitely needed more care than they were getting at that time.

He just had one of the employees from the rail yard who was taking care of them. So I just kind of never left. And in 2015 I took over management. In 2017 we converted to a nonprofit and that's really allowed us to open up who we work with and what we do. It lets us adopt animals rather than purchasing or breeding. It lets us have more work with municipalities, with schools, with universities. It also allows us to be a little bit more proactive in our hiring policies. So we really strive to give work to people who are from our underserved neighborhoods in San Francisco.

So it's opened a lot of doors for us. What we do is specialize in strips of undeveloped land and San Francisco has a lot of that. There's a lot of back hillsides or park areas that haven't been landscaped and that's where we come in. And then also just backyards.

We do a fair amount of backyards. It's a lot of fun to bring somebody five goats to spend a week in their yard and let their family interact and see what that's like. And most of our goats are really friendly. They love people.

They're easy to hang out with and you wouldn't necessarily want to keep them forever, but they're a lot of fun for a week. The community loves the goats, absolutely loves them. From being completely startled to see a goat, you know, we get the why are there goats here questions from passersby. We get kids who've never seen a goat before and do not know what they are and say, Mommy, what's wrong with that dog? Or is that a donkey?

That was my favorite question that I've ever gotten. The goats have a lot of fans and so we always publicize if we're at a location where the public can come and view the grazing and that is just an amazing side benefit of what we do. It's really great to be able to give back to the planet. It's great to be able to contribute to the health of trees because a lot of what the goats eat is the Himalayan blackberry, which is an invasive here and a few different forms of ivy. So it's a lot of our work is taking care of those two plants to keep the trees and some of our parks like the Presidio, UCSF, Mount Sutro. These are a couple of the larger parks in San Francisco that we do a lot of work for.

It's really about tree health, but it's also about fire hazard reduction. But a huge part, especially in the last few years, people were just looking for anything that they could do outside with their kids. Like how do we get out of the house? And you can always come visit the goats, right?

So it's just so much fun to give people that kind of outlet. And it's not just people with their kids. We've got dog walkers who bring their dogs. The dogs are fascinated. They've never seen goats before either.

These are city dogs, right? They do not know what livestock is. So they have a lot of fun and the goats are so funny.

They're very used to the urban environment. Goats are such adaptive animals. You wouldn't put a horse or a cow or a sheep in some of the situations that we very happily put our goats. The goats are just like, oh yeah, okay. Is this the new place we're staying for a week?

Cool. And they'll interact with the people. They'll interact with dogs. They get bored if they're in one location, as anyone who has goats can tell you.

Goats get very bored and they will start trying to break out. They love to explore new space. They love new vegetation. And so we find they have much better manners if we are moving them around pretty regularly and giving them new grounds to stomp on. Our mission is sustainable land management.

And that's really just about inspiring people to find creative solutions to the problems that we have. What we do is so beneficial, but it's really just goats being goats. It's a very elegant solution to the problem of overgrowth or fire hazard or invasive plants because we put the goats on them and the goats don't do anything special. They just do what goats do.

They compete with each other for food and they have a great time doing it. And you're listening to Genevieve Church, the third crazy goat lady of San Francisco. More of her story here on Our American Stories. And we return to Our American Stories and to Genevieve Church of City Grazing, the goat-powered land management and fire prevention organization in San Francisco.

Let's pick up where she last left off. We have so many amazing goats and they come to us from all over. As I said, most of our goats are retired dairy goats. Their milk production drops off and it's hard on their bodies.

So it's really fun for us to be able to take those ladies in and retrain them. We take them in and just put them in basically that pasture and then leave them there for a week. And when they first come to us, they'll come to the fence every morning like, isn't someone supposed to do something with me now?

Don't I have to go somewhere? And we're like, nope, just go eat with the rest of the goats. But we also, every year we try and adopt in some of the little orphan dairy boys. Dairy goats have to have a baby every year in order to keep giving milk.

The females go back into the dairy industry, but those males usually go into the meat industry. And we like to adopt a few of those in every year and raise them to be grazing goats. So those little guys, they are very social.

They've been hand raised by people. They really turn to us for all of their needs. They're so much fun to interact with.

They're really naturalized to people and they have big personalities. But some of our other goats are rescue goats that have come from you name it, all different situations. And yes, all of our goats have names from Regina, the complaining dairy goat who never stops yelling at us.

We have Huck and Finn who are a pair of twins. Another pair that we have is Curry and Stew. Their original owner raised them for food, but he bought them as babies and he loved them so much he just fell in love with them and called us and kind of shamefacedly said, I can't eat my goats.

Can you take them for me? So we took them in. But my favorite two, they've actually both passed on now. Princess and Udo came to us. They didn't seem to know that they were goats. They were these enormous, enormous alpine goats. And they had been raised in someone's kitchen in Oakland. They'd been raised on people food.

They've never grazed. They'd been eating breakfast cereal and apparently human food their whole lives. The lady who raised them was very eccentric. Her neighbors were complaining to the health department. She reached out to us and we were like, yeah, sure, we'll take them. So we went to get them and we didn't really think it through. We didn't understand that they, you know, other than going into her backyard, they really hadn't been outside.

She was keeping them in the house. So we had to teach them how to live outside. We had to teach them how to graze.

We had to expose them. And they were adults. They were both quite large. And in the end, both of them took over the herd. Both of them were the alpha males in the herd. And we named Princess Princess because he was so high maintenance. I have to say like that name wasn't really supposed to stick because he was the biggest white male goat with giant horns that you've ever seen. And it was just kind of an ironic name because he didn't know how to eat or take care of himself. He was such a princess. We had to wait on him hand and foot before he learned how to be a goat.

By the end, he was the king and he just ruled the entire herd. So those two probably are my favorite rescue story. But we have others. We have goats that came to us from 4-H. So there are 4-H kids that had raised them, didn't want them to end up being harvested.

So they donated them to us rather than sell them at the fair. One of them, though, he had a little accident. And this was before he came to us. He lost the tip of his ear and they decided he couldn't be shown as breeding stock, which was the intention when he was raised. His name is Dipper. Dipper looks like a small rhinoceros without horns. He's the most muscular goat I've ever seen. He has giant, thick legs and huge feet and a giant head. He looks like he could knock all the other goats down.

But he's the ultimate in gentle giant. He doesn't know he's strong. He doesn't know that he's just the burliest goat ever. And he stands off to the side and lets all the other goats eat first.

And we have to keep him in with the old ladies because he does not understand his own strength. So they come to us with such cute personalities and individual natures. Goats love salt. They have a very high need for salt in their diet. And so when you see a goat licking the inside of a tin can, which, yes, that stereotype is an accurate one. Goats will pick up tin cans that have had food in them and they will carry them around. They actually can't eat them. They are trying to lick out whatever was inside that can. If there's any residue of salt, a chip bag, you know, what's the most common piece of litter that you see anywhere?

It's a Doritos bag. They will take them in their mouth. They will chew on them and chew on them and chew on them with the way we chew gum. And then they'll spit them out because they're just trying to suck all that salt off of the inside. That's kind of where goats get that reputation from. So it's like, why did they do why did they chew on plastic?

We finally, I think it was a vet who was like, oh, it's the salt. They love roses and they love blackberries. Blackberries, that's great because it's a massive problem in California. We have Himalayan blackberry growing all over the West Coast and it's a terrible invasive plant. The roses, not so much.

Nobody really wants the goats to come in and eat their prize rose collection. So we do have to, you know, we're really intense about our fencing to make sure that that doesn't happen. Homeowners associations in the Bay Area tend to, I don't know why, but they almost all have one giant inaccessible hillside that periodically needs to have something done about the fire danger. And we love doing it. City Grazing gets about 60% of our income from our grazing work, but the other 40% of our income comes from donations and we really rely heavily on that.

We have a really amazing team of employees. We are out there setting fencing, clearing paths. San Francisco is big in terms of population and small in terms of acreage.

It's a tiny little city that is jam packed. So we have to build really nice fences every time we take the goats anywhere to make sure that they stay enclosed, stay safe and make sure everyone in the situation is contained. We also have a box truck that we converted to a mobile barn, but it's essentially just like any U-Haul that you'd use to move. We pull out the ramp, the goats run in the ramp or run out the ramp, but it's really kind of hilarious to check out the goats getting in and out of the truck. It's not what you'd expect, but it's definitely been one of our best innovations. Talk about funny stories. We have staged goat yoga.

If you missed your chance at the goat yoga trend when that was a thing, don't worry about it because what you really missed out on was probably getting peed on by a baby goat. That's what we don't tell you when we sell you the ticket, but it was a fundraiser that we did for a while. Some of the other crazy stuff that we've done, we have pranked a groom at a wedding. His in-laws hired us to bring goats to the wedding reception and to bring them out behind the groom while the father of the bride was making his toast. We didn't know this.

They didn't tell us. I don't think they loved their son-in-law very much. He was terrified of goats.

It was just a scene. It was hilarious for everyone there except for the groom. We've taken goats to nightclub openings, not inside, outside, so their ears wouldn't get any damage. We've done a really great promotion years and years in a row. We did about five of these called Goat My Valentine, where we would bring goats and stage a photo shoot so that you could come up with your sweetheart and take a photo with the goats and get cuddly with our baby goats on Valentine's Day. That was a really fun one that we did. People love goats.

It's true. They're a lot of fun. We love them. All of us at City Grazing, we smell terrible at the end of the day, but we love our job. And a great job on the storytelling and production by Madison, and a special thanks to Genevieve Church, Executive Director of City Grazing. My goodness, I love some of the names, Huck and Finn, Regina the complaining dairy goat, and Princess and Udo, enormous alpine goats who'd never grazed in their lives.

They were raised on human food in a house. The story of City Grazing, which started as a fun side project, but now takes care of fire prevention and so much more in the city of San Francisco here on Our American Stories. And we continue with Our American Stories. And as you know, we tell stories about everything here. And this one is a military family story.

And you're going to hear right now from Mike McDaniel, a retired US Navy captain himself. He shares with us a few defining moments of his life from way back when, when he was just a little boy growing up as the son of a Naval aviator deployed in Vietnam. We grew up as a Navy family. We had many gatherings where the families would get together, the wives and the children.

So we kind of a community within the aviation squadrons. And I remember one day I can remember it like it was yesterday, May 19th. It was a beautiful day outside Friday afternoon, happy-go-lucky third grade kid walking home from school. Couldn't wait to get home, spend the weekend playing with my buddies in the neighborhood. And as I approached the house, I noticed there were about a dozen cars in the driveway and along the street and again, not atypical for a, for a Navy family cause they get together. So I didn't take anything out of it. So I went in the house and as soon as I walked in the house, Mrs. Miles, who was a wife of another squatter made of my dad's came up and she says, you're going to come home with me for the weekend and spend the night and with Gary and Larry, there were her sons that were kind of two of my good friends.

Oh, okay. So I didn't really have anything planned, but it sounded okay. So we got in her car and on the way to her house, we stopped at a Heise ice cream store. Heise ice cream stores at that time were like candy heaven for a kid.

You get ice cream, multi flavors, and they had these candy racks. You can remember they were like, you know, they were huge as I remember them as a kid. And she said to me, Michael, get whatever you want, as much as you want, red flag something, something's not right here, but Hey, what a great opportunity. So I remember going up to the candy rack and just stuff in my arms and glancing over her every once in a while to see if I kind of was reaching the threshold and she just was like, you know, go up for it.

So literally as much as I could carry, I took up to the counter the next morning. She brought me back. And I remember they used to have these big bubblegum sticks back when we were kids.

They were called big buddies. And there are these long stings of bubblegum. And I remember about five minutes out from the house, I tore that thing open. I stuffed that whole thing in my mouth. And she let me out, said goodbye. So I walked in the house and my mom met me at the door and she said, let's go back to your room.

I need to tell you something. So we walked back to my bedroom and she said, let me hold your bubblegum because what I'm going to tell you is going to make you cry. And then she said that my dad had been shot down the previous day over Vietnam and was currently in the jungle of North Vietnam and they were going to hopefully rescue him later that day. And that was the last thing we heard for the next three years. So for those first three years of his six year time away, we didn't know if he was dead or alive. And I remember my dad telling me and one of the last things he said to me was, take care of the family while I'm gone. So here we were, I was in the third grade. My brother was two years younger and my sister was only four. And at the time the Navy had told my mother for us not to tell anybody that he had been shot down, family or friends. And I was just like, how do you do that?

How do you go without a father and do this? I remember wanting to think he was okay, but not wanting to think he was okay if he really wasn't. So that was kind of a tough thing to think through as a young boy. It was three years later and it was the day of the solar eclipse in Virginia Beach.

I remember the full solar eclipse of the sun, which is kind of a big deal. And I had a little league basketball championship game and I was a pretty decent basketball player back then. And I was spending the night with Petey Bowerman, whose dad was our coach. We had the early game.

It was like an 830 game and it was a championship game. Mrs. Bowerman or one of them came in the room and you know, we were just waking up and she says, Michael, your mother's on the phone. I remember these words too. She said, Michael, I have some wonderful news. And up until that point, anytime she had said that, I thought something about dad, something about dad, but it would be something like the grandparents are coming to town for the weekend or we're going somewhere.

It was like a letdown. And this time I remember vividly thinking the grandparents are coming to town for the weekend. And she says, a list came out today.

The North Vietnamese released a list of 14 names of men being held officially as POWs and your dad's names on it. We know he's alive. And it was like the weight of the world came off my shoulders. I went to the basketball game and I normally scored about 10, 12 points.

And I think I made a score too. I could really care less what happened with the game. And then the reality set in, okay, he's alive.

Now what? Well, let's get this war over with and let's get him home. That was a very tumultuous time of the war. Now I understand it better, you know, cause of the history of it, but Ho Chi Minh had died. So a lot of, a lot of changes were taking place in Vietnam, but the streets were wild with protesters and the anti-war movement.

And it was just like everything was spinning out of control. And here's your dad languaging in a prison somewhere. Okay, then let me fast forward to when we found he was coming home. The ceasefire had taken place and the Paris peace talks where they were negotiating. And then they announced they were going to release the first wave of POWs that were there the longest. And my dad was going to be part of the second wave of prisoners to come home. Well, the first wave came home and that was such a joyous occasion.

I can remember Jeremiah Denton walking off the plane and doing his God bless America. It was just wonderful. And you knew my dad was going to be in that next wave of those that were released. And then the peace treaty broke down and so they delayed the release. It was like a bad dream.

It's just a horrible feeling. Then they finally did have the release date, but something else had happened because of the first wave that came out and started getting their debriefings because I started that right away. They found out about what my dad had gone through in 1969. There was an escape attempt. The Navy psychologists came and sat down with us as children and told us, your dad went through a real rough go. There was a real severe torture. We're not sure what kind of shape he's going to be in mentally. And that scared me to death as a kid. And I guess I appreciate them trying to prepare us, but that's not something you say to a 15 year old and a 13 year old and a 10 year old. I remember being horrified by what, what, what now?

What else is coming? So they take off from Hanoi and we know he's on his way to the Philippines. And this is before internet.

This is before cable television, just network television at the time. The plane was going to land in Clark Air Force base in the Philippines, like at four in the morning, wartime on the East coast. So my mom comes in to each of our bedrooms while we're asleep before she wakes us up and takes a Polaroid picture of us sleeping before she wakes us up. I think I'm laying there with my dog with my mouth wide open or something. So she wakes us up as we all gather around the television and my mom's she's on the floor on her knees in front of the television. And you see this plane land and then it taxis up to the tarmac and they bring the ladder up.

They opened the door and the POW start coming out one by one. And you see this guy, you could tell he was tall and he's there and all you see is from about the chest down and he's adjusting his belt line. We call it a gig line in the Navy. You can make sure your, your shirt is lined up with your pants trousers and your belt buckle.

It's just a Navy thing. I didn't, you know, and you just knew it was him. And my mom dissolves into tears on the floor. I mean, she's just on the floor just sobbing and we're like, mom, not now, not now. You got to watch this. So she never saw it. She had to see on the reruns the next day. Then he walks down the ladder.

There he is as large as life. Your dad getting on free soil, you know, that was so cool. So then let me go back to the time when they were supposed to come into Norfolk, naval air station Norfolk. And there were like thousands, probably 10,000 people that had come to the airfield to watch this watch these men come home. They were going to fly at a Travis air force base then to naval air station Norfolk, but it got fogged in. And again, it's like, what next? You know, it was like one more thing that was delaying it. So what they did, they ended up flying into Oceana and then driving from there to the hospital and ports that they were going to be. So the crowd never saw that, but they transferred us to the hospital. This black sedan drives up into the conclave of the hospital and the door opens and out pops this guy, this Navy khaki, full dress uniform, who you've been waiting for for seven years because he was almost towards the end of a year long deployment. Large his life looking so sharp, even though he's pretty skinny, but he just rushes to the family, hugs my mom first, then picks up my sister in his arms and they all kind of gather around and he says a few words and it was like, yes, we're there.

Yes. And you're hearing a grown man recalling a really tough time in his life, almost breaking down and crying. And again, that was Mike McDaniel of retired US Navy captain and his dad, captain Eugene Red McDaniel, who flew A6s in Vietnam, shot down on his 81st combat mission. What a great story. Mike McDaniel's story, his dad's story here on our American stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-17 03:05:23 / 2023-02-17 03:19:51 / 14

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