Tara O’Grady has been waiting 47 years for her father to come home from Vietnam and now her vigil is over.
It ended last summer when she was informed by the Pentagon’s Department of Missing Persons that the remains of her father, U.S. Air Force Colonel John O’Grady, were not found in a site in Vietnam believed to contain them.
“A lot of my hopes were dashed. I put so much effort into this. I was crushed. I really thought they were going to find them,” O’Grady said in a recent phone interview from her Las Vegas home.
O’Grady maintained a campaign since 2012 to bring home the remains of her father, who grew up in New Hyde Park, that includes a website and a Facebook page. She also sent a petition with 100,000 signatures to the White House.
Her family was notified in 1967 that her 37-year-old dad had been shot down over Vietnam, but had parachuted from his disabled jet. The missing pilot’s family awaited further word about his fate until the Air Force declared him dead in 1977, offering no details.
Then in 2011, two former North Vietnamese soldiers told representatives of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, volunteers who attempt to account for all U.S. military missing in action, that they captured O’Grady after his plane crashed.
He was entangled in a tree in his parachute, with a broken leg and a small scalp wound. They tried to bring the dehydrated O’Grady to a field hospital by stretcher but he died in transit and they respectfully buried his remains.
Tara said one soldier recalled how O’Grady clung to a photo of his wife and family.
Attempts to excavate the site were interrupted in 2012, but when the effort was resumed around Memorial Day this year, no remains were found. Tara said she subsequently learned about the unsuccessful result when she contacted the Department of Missing Persons.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” she said. “I was hoping for a resolution. I don’t hold out much hope of them finding my father now.”
Now she has set up a website to raise funds for a trip with her two adult children to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. at gofundme.com/coloneljohnogrady.
“My new goal is to get to the Wall next May,” she said.
O’Grady is seeking to erect a memorial plaque for Col. John O’Grady in Las Vegas, where he lived with his family before going to Vietnam.
“It’s a situation that never provides resolution,” she said.