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The Patch and the Stream Where the American Fell: Finding Dave Dinan

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 31, 2024 3:01 am

The Patch and the Stream Where the American Fell: Finding Dave Dinan

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 31, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the remarkable story of an unbreakable brotherhood and one man's quest to return the remains of his fellow pilot to US soil.

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Our American Stories
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Boyd where prohibited by law. 18 plus, terms and conditions apply. See website for details. And we return to our American stories. From 1959 to 1975, the Civil War raged on in the jungles west of Vietnam between the Kingdom of Laos, supported by the United States, and Laotian Communists, supported by North Vietnam. The hidden war saw great devastation, not only to the Laotians living in the middle of it, but to Americans fighting in it as well. One of those Americans fighting was Ed Sykes. Ed was the commander of the 184th Kansas Air National Guard, and is a well-regarded fighter pilot. He is here to tell his story of service and a bond that was formed between him and another brother-in-arms that lasted far beyond the end of the Vietnam War. And by the way, his son Bart Sykes will be doing a reading from his father's book, and Bart is himself a former Air Force pilot.

Take it away, Ed. I decided I was going to be a fighter pilot pretty young. I had gone to a movie, Sabre Jets, with a good friend of mine. It was about F-86s in Korea. And we were sitting out on the swings after that.

His name was Butch Pasture, Frank Pasture. And we were sitting out on the swings, and we decided we were going to be fighter pilots. And we followed through on that.

But I was sort of dumb about this. I thought in order to be a fighter pilot, I needed to be an engineer. So I headed off to the University of Wisconsin in Madison and joined Air Force ROTC, made sort of a fool of myself by being a young kid from Kentucky. And the first encounter I had with a military officer, Colonel Hosman, he threw me out of his office when I walked up and told him I wanted to be a fighter pilot. And he said, now you come back tomorrow for ROTC orientation. I said, I don't need to come back. He looked at me and said, young man, get out of my office. You come back to orientation tomorrow.

Yes, sir. Anyway, I went through that whole process. I got married between my fourth and fifth year of the engineering curriculum at Madison. Mary and I met on a beach in Chicago. And it just happened that same guy who had talked to me about being a fighter pilot was the guy that was with me when we met Mary and another friend of hers. And somehow, I don't know why she put up with me, but she did.

And we were married a couple years later, and the rest is history. When I graduated from college, I went to flying school at Reese Air Force Base, Texas. And somehow in my mind I came up with this idea that I wanted to fly the best fighter that the Air Force had. And at that time, the F-105 was the airplane that was probably the best fighter, but it was also the fighter that had the most dangerous mission.

So like a dummy, I worked hard to get myself in that position. Here's Ed's son reading a quote from his father's book. You live a lot of things if you live around them. But there isn't any woman, and there isn't any horse, nor any before, nor any after, that is as lovely as a great airplane. And men who love them are faithful to them, even though they leave them for others.

A man has only one virginity to lose in fighters, and if it is a lovely plane he loses it to, there his heart will always be. Ernest Hemingway Here's Ed's wife, Mary. When he got his assignment, he was at work. He called me at our apartment. He said, Mary, I got the 105. I said, the what?

The 105. And I cried, because a lot of people were getting killed in that. And it was at that point that I decided to start trying to get pregnant and have a baby.

So if he got killed, I'd have something left. As a matter of fact, she did get pregnant here at McConnell when I was going through training. When I left for Southeast Asia, she was six months pregnant with our first child.

Yeah, that departure from the United States when I was on my way to Thailand was, well, it was just pretty emotional, I guess, for both of us. I could feel that little kid kicking in her stomach, and both of us wondered if I ever get to see him. We didn't know it was a little boy at the time, but it did turn out to be a little boy who subsequently graduated from the Air Force Academy and spent his career as an F-16 pilot. Made me proud. All my kids made me proud, right?

Anyway. Hemingway nailed it. The F-105 Thunderchief was that fighter for me. Few men on this planet ever got a chance to strap a beautiful fighter to their back and give it life. I lost my virginity, as described by Hemingway, in the F-105 in 1968 and would go on to fly other fighters, but somehow, the THUD, as it was called by its pilots and maintainers, will always hold my heart. Why did you get so enamored with that plane? I think it's called testosterone.

I think there are certain people that just have this chemical need to go out and do stuff like that. It was actually built as a penetration bomber against the Russians. We needed an airplane that would go really fast, carry nuclear weapons into the heart of Russia, or the Soviet Union at that time. That was why they built it, and it was built to go super fast. It was a Mach 2 airplane. On the deck, this is at sea level, that airplane would go well past the speed of sound, like almost a thousand miles an hour on the deck. It was pretty amazing to sit in the cockpit of an airplane going that fast. In fact, I had the opportunity to go supersonic below sea level.

Now, you've probably never done that, but supersonic below sea level is pretty amazing. Just watching things go by, actually, you don't look at anything on the side. When you're going that fast, you're looking straight ahead. Everything else is a blur because you're going as fast as a bullet.

I mean, you're really going fast. There was a movie that came out while I was in flight school. It was called There Is A Way, and it was a story of the F-105s flying missions out of Karat, Thailand. It was pretty exciting, and they interviewed some of the pilots and stuff.

As soon as I saw that, I said, yep, that's me. Well, they showed that to the wives, too. But I don't remember any fatalities happening during the movie.

No, there weren't any fatalities. Even all of us knew. It was all this great stuff. The other thing that motivated me was if you got to fly the 105 in Southeast Asia and you completed 100 missions, you got a patch that you could wear on your arm. It's called the 100-mission patch.

I wanted that patch so bad. That was the reason. It was pure and simple stupidity, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think watching from the periphery, the seduction about those airplanes is that they are with another group of men who know exactly what they're talking about when they talk about, oh, I did this, I did that, and it's that lifestyle of being with a small group of people that really you can share everything with, all the exciting things, all the terrifying things, and that's part of the attraction. There's a hell of a lot of bonding that goes on between fighter pilots who go to combat together or who have shared that experience. It's hard to explain, but it is a bond. It is a bond of brotherhood. Like I said in Dave's eulogy, he was a brother because that's exactly the way I felt. You've been listening to Ed Sykes, his bride, Mary, and his son, Bartz. And by the way, when you join the military, it's a family affair. It's not just the soldier. He got the idea to be a fighter pilot by watching a movie when he was a kid, and when he announces to his wife that he got the 105, she said a lot of people were getting killed in that. She didn't quite have the enthusiasm he did about landing his dream plane, the thud, by the way, it's called. When we come back, more of the story of Ed Sykes, his family, and that band of brother aviators here on Our American Stories. With lucky land slots, you can get lucky just about anywhere. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to... Has anyone seen the bride and groom?

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See website for details. And we return to Our American Stories and our story with Ed Sykes, author of The Patch and the Stream Where the American Fell. When we last left off, Ed was telling us all about how he became a fighter pilot. It was an early dream of his after watching the war film Sabre Jet, and it was a dream he managed to chase down, eventually becoming the pilot of an F-105. Ed would be sent to fight in Vietnam, and while stationed in that neck of the woods, he'd become close to a fellow pilot, a brother named Dave Dinan.

Let's get back to the story once again. Here's Ed and his son Bart's reading from the aforementioned book. Went to Southeast Asia, flew 118 combat missions in the 105, got shot at a few times, did not get shot down, luckily, but I had a good number of my friends who were shot down, and a number of them died. At any rate, in 2009, something I did every year as I planted my garden, I planted my potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, and it just turned out that one of my friends who had been killed, a guy named Dave Dinan, had been shot down on St. Patrick's Day in 1969. And I always wondered what had happened to Dave, and I'll tell you, one of the reasons that Dave meant so much to me was, well, it was sort of interesting. Another friend of ours, another lieutenant, Bob Zukowski, had been rooming with Dave Dinan, and Zukowski got killed in January of 1969. And Dave and Bob Zukowski were very close friends. Dave was a pretty sensible guy. He was very smart. He had a degree in physics from a university out on the East Coast. He had attended MIT for quite a while. But anyway, Dave was, I could tell he was not very happy about what had happened.

And Dave, because Bob was gone and I had just arrived, they moved me in with Dave, and he was now my roommate. And he would sit around, because he had probably 75 missions by now, and he had a lot of experience. I still remember him sitting there and saying, Ed, only dumps strafe gun sights.

Talking about taking your gun and trying to shoot another gun sight, or a gun sight on the ground. He said, you know, you're moving, he's sitting there stationary, and you're going to lose that. And I'll be damned if he didn't get shot down strafing a gun sight. And I think it was because this whole brother thing, you know, he was really upset that he had lost Bob Zukowski. And he just started doing some stuff that he knew he shouldn't be doing.

He told me not to do it, but he was out there doing it, and it cost him his life. I think he wanted some revenge. I don't know if that's what it was, but he jumped out of an airplane. He came down in the parachute, hit the ground, a PJ, a pair of rescue jumper, and a jolly green giant came in to pick him up. They found his body. He was dead. He was wedged between a tree and a rock.

They thought they were getting shot at, and they left the body. And I knew that while I was still in Thailand, but I had no idea that they hadn't recovered his body at the time. But a couple days, actually the day after I got, after Dave was shot down, my squadron commander told me that I was going to be the summary courts officer for Dave.

And what that meant was I was going to pack up all of his belongings, put them in a box for delivery back to his parents, and then I was required to write a letter to his parents. While I was doing this, I got a knock on the door, and it was a young lady who I recognized. She was an intelligence officer, one of the very first females in the combat zone during Vietnam. Her name was Val Galula, and Valerie knocked on the door, and I said, Hey, Val, what's going on? She was crying.

She was really upset. And I said, What is it, Valerie? And she said, Well, could I have a couple of Dave's things? I said, Valerie, I've read the orders that I have.

I can't give you anything of Dave's. And she said, Well, would it make any difference if I told you we're going to be married Saturday? I said, Well, Valerie, I don't know.

I really don't have an idea. I didn't realize you were going to get married. She said, Go ask Father Gene Gasparevic.

He was the Catholic chaplain. And he'll let you know that we were supposed to get married on Saturday. So I went over to visit my good friend Father Gene, really great guy. And he said, Ed, I know why you're here. And I asked him about Valerie and Dave. And he said, Yep, they're going to get married Saturday.

And unfortunately, that's not going to happen. Went back to the hooch. The hooch was the room we lived in.

Completed packing his stuff. The next morning, Valerie came by again. And this time she was really, really upset. And she said, Ed, did you go talk to Father Gene? And I said, Well, yes, I did, Valerie. And he told me that you were going to be married Saturday. And I said, Well. And she said, Well, does it make any difference? Can I have those items that I want now?

And she said and I said, Valerie, I've read the regulation. I don't think I can give you anything because it belongs to the family. She looked at me and said, Ed, would it make any difference if I told you I'm pregnant? And I said, What would you like? And I gave her a couple of little teddy bear, a bracelet and maybe a necklace.

Some stuff that I'm sure the parents wouldn't recognize the value of. And in those days, if you became pregnant, a female became pregnant in the Air Force. You're out of there. They simply discharged you. So within a couple of days, Valerie was sent back to the U.S. And one of the things I've talked to her since, but one of the things she talked about was when she hit the U.S. in California and the airport at San Francisco, she pulled her wedding dress out of her bag and threw it in the trash.

And she she was obviously distraught. At any rate, going back to 2009, I had planted my potatoes and I thought of Dave. And that same year, my son was stationed at Washington, D.C., was taking language training to go to Moscow, Russia.

He was going to work in the embassy there. So I went to Washington, D.C., went to the war memorial, the Vietnam memorial, looked at all the names of guys that I had flown with who I knew had been killed over there. And it turned out that three of them had not had their remains brought back to the U.S.

I can't even begin to explain how bad I felt about that. These were all guys I knew. They were guys I'd fought with. I'd covered their six o'clock and they'd covered my six o'clock. And I thought to myself, you know, the worst thing that could have happened to me is that I'd been shot down and my body had been left on the ground in Laos or North Vietnam or wherever.

It just it just didn't seem right. So I decided then that I was going to go find Dave Dinan's remains. People would occasionally ask me what motivated me to continue the search. And I would talk about Dave's family and our friendship and in a few cases, Valerie. But I would never state what was really my driving force.

My country on this issue is an embarrassment and I want to fix it. And what a story you're hearing from Ed Sykes about this brotherhood of aviators and the loss and the price paid for serving during times of war. He lost not one, but several friends, pals. And that story of his friend Dave Dinan and his to be bride, Valerie, while finding out that that wedding would never happen and that she'd be raising a child without the love of her life. These are the reasons we tell these stories and they move us.

And for all those still serving now prepared to fight for us, that same risk is there for anyone in uniform. When we come back, the story of Ed Sykes, the story of so much more, his family and the families that served during the Vietnam War here on Our American Stories. OK, round two. Name something that's not boring.

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ChumbaCasino.com. And we return to Our American Stories and the story of Ed Sykes and his brother in arms, Dave Dinan. When we last left off, Ed had come to the conclusion while planting potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, years after the Vietnam War, that he'd find out what happened to Dave Dinan's body. He would find out that not only were Dave's remains never recovered during the war, but they hadn't been recovered after either.

So he made it his mission to give Dave a proper burial in the United States. There was one problem. Let's get back to the story. Here again is Ed Sykes, his wife, Mary, and his son, Bart's, reading from Dave's book, The Patch and the Stream Where the American Fell. Didn't know where to start.

First thing I did is start looking for his family. I remember that Dave was from New Jersey, and one night, as I was having trouble getting to sleep, my mom threw out a name. Nutley.

It's amazing how much the human brain has stored in its hard drive and how it can sometimes spit out a detail without any reasonable explanation. I got out of bed and wrote Nutley down on a notepad in my office. The next morning, I found Nutley printed on my notepad and went straight to Google to see if it was a real place.

Bingo! It's a town in New Jersey. I then Googled, Nutley, New Jersey Dining, but got no results.

I finally found he had two brothers left. Over the holidays, my youngest son, Ezra, brought his fiancée, Jill Rockoff, to visit us in Kansas. She was a lovely, fun-loving young lady who had played hockey for Dartmouth. She and Ezra were settled in Boston with good jobs, and were going to get married the following August. We talked about the wedding, and Mary and I agreed we would host the rehearsal dinner. We also decided to make a trip to Boston in February to do some planning and pick out a site for the dinner. So, what does this have to do with Dave Dining?

It turns out a lot. Mary and I packed our bags and made the trip to Boston. When we arrived, Jill and Ezra drove us to Hingham, Massachusetts, where we had been invited to stay with her parents, Mark and Beth Rockoff. And Mark provided us with a great seafood dinner that evening.

During dinner, he mentioned that on Sunday mornings, he always walked down the street to the Atlantic Bagel and Coffee Company to pick up a week's supply of bagels. I asked him to let me tag along. I'll leave the house at 7.30.

Are you up for that? Don't leave without me, I replied. Early the next morning, we made the short hike to the Bagel Company.

Mark placed his order, and we sat down with some coffee waiting for the order to be filled. Have you lived here all your life, Mark? No. My family is from New Jersey originally. Doesn't hurt to ask. Are you familiar with Nutley?

Sure. It's a short drive from where my father owned a tailor shop in Elizabeth. I went on to ask him if he had ever known any diners while he was growing up. Don't remember anyone by that name, but I'll ask my father if he knew the family. I mentioned my search for Dave's remains, and he was interested as I explained the circumstances of Dave's death and my unsuccessful quest to find the Dinan family.

When Mark's order was ready, we took the bagels and headed back to their house. Mark's curiosity about Dave had clearly been aroused because when we got back, he took me to his computer and entered Dave Dinan, U.S. Air Force, 1969. There were several hits, and as we went through them, I recognized them as items I had seen before.

However, he selected one I had not seen. As I read it, I exclaimed, I didn't know he graduated from MIT. The cobwebs in my brain suddenly broke loose, and I remember Dave telling me back in the day that he had started out at MIT but had finished somewhere else with a degree in physics. I also remember discussing science issues with him as we had similar backgrounds.

Mark then volunteered. I'm an MIT graduate. I'll bet I started at MIT about the time Dave graduated. Next week, I'll contact the Alumni Association and see if they have any information on Dave's family.

Mark, bless his soul, got right on it. After a little research through the MIT files, Mark found the following article in the MIT Alumni Magazine. Air Force pilot Lieutenant David Dinan III, 65, was killed in the line of duty in March of 1969 in Laos after he was forced to bail out of an F-105 jet that had been hit by ground fire. His name was the last to be added to the war memorial in Lobby 10. The class of 1982 has been the sponsor of the Vietnam Memorial plaque in Building 10 since its inception and paid for the engraving. MITMAA, the MIT Military Alumni Association, is working with MIT staff to ensure that the memorial is updated to include all conflicts since 1969. If you know of an MIT alum who was killed in the line of duty, please contact Fran Morone. Fran Morone was an administrative assistant for the Dean of Students. Mark sent an email to Fran.

Within a few days, Mark received an email back from Fran. This is a bittersweet surprise that you would contact me concerning David Dinan's memorial at MIT. Yes, this is very much a coincidence that your daughter's future father-in-law was a pilot with David. Perhaps he, the future father-in-law, is in touch with, or will now, because of this email, be in touch with Charles Dinan Jr., David's brother. I talked to those two brothers, told them what I wanted to do, and they laughed and said, there's no reason to do that, Ed, we gave up 25 years ago.

We don't expect that you're going to find anything. I said, well, do you mind if I try? They said, nope, we'll go ahead and give it a try. And I told them that I wanted them to become more involved with the bureaucrats that ran the system. And I asked them to come with me to Washington, D.C. and meet some of these people and let them know that the family wanted those remains returned.

And they agreed to do that. Over the next few years, I made three trips to Laos, looking for any clues or any idea of where Dave's remains might be. And this is the part that I figured would make a difference, is by now I was 68 years old, and I was over there stomping around in the jungle doing the work that these guys from the recovery teams were supposed to be doing.

Mary was not all a big fan of this when I started. Well, you tell what you... I can say a few things.

Let's make this real. Yeah, you say a few things. When he first said, oh, I'm going to go over to Laos and find his body, I thought, oh, my God.

I said, if you get attacked by the Laotian tribesmen or fall in a crater or something, I am not going to come and get your body. And it worked. They started paying attention to me. And then when I brought those two brothers in to Washington, D.C., they really started getting interested. And then finally, after a couple of years, we found that P.J. who had gone down, found Dave's body, and asked the people, the bureaucrats, to take him back to Southeast Asia and look for any clues of Dave's remains. We went back and just luckily found Dave's I.D. card laying on the ground way up at Northern Laos in a real obscure place.

At any rate, this P.J. came back and he called me up on the telephone through some kind of magic telephone line. It was real early in the morning. Mary was doing something. I think she got the phone call in the house.

I was outside and I just had a really nice little litter of pigs and I was really happy the sun was shining. And I was walking to the house and Mary opens the sliding glass door and said, hey, Ed, it's Leland Sorenson on the line. Leland was the name of the guy. I got on the line with him and he said, hey, Ed, you're not going to believe this. We just found Dave's I.D.

card laying on the ground way to hell out in the sticks in the jungle. He said, I can't believe it. And I said, I can't believe it either, Leland. But from then on, now that the bureaucrats had all kinds of interest in going back and looking for the body. A couple of years later, I went over there and did some little coercion to make sure they got to that site and looked for his remains. They went and started looking for his remains, immediately started finding bone fragments and teeth and some other stuff. They sent it back to the laboratory where they check on the remains.

It's in Hawaii. They did the DNA samples that had been sent by the brothers and said, hey, that's him. And in April of 2018, we set up a recovery ceremony at Arlington.

They flew the body in from Hawaii, landed at Reagan Airport. And I was lucky enough to be asked to do the eulogy for Dave at the chapel at Arlington. It was probably one of the best days of my life. It was pretty phenomenal that I could stand in front of all these people who knew Dave and had been around him and said, hey, we're not going to quit. We're going to we're going to find Dave's remains.

And we did. It was it was pretty neat. The story of Ed Sykes and his family of Dave Dinan and his pals lost in combat and the story of so much more here on Our American Stories. Mixed up in the family business. Introducing the Godfather at Champa Casino dot com. Test your luck in the shadowy world of the Godfather slot.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-12 01:34:23 / 2024-02-12 01:46:27 / 12

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