The Wall of Faces

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  • Letter from Daddy

    Posted on 8/15/14 - by Tara O'Grady
    Last letter written by Colonel John F. O'Grady while serving in Vietnam

    Colonel O'Grady had seven children and just before he was shot down over North Vietnam he wrote a letter to his youngest daughter, Tara O'Grady.

    This is an exact excerpt from the letter he wrote to his 6 year old daughter:

    "Daddy is flying a lot and the more he flies the sooner he will be home for good and thats what he wants more than anything else in the world so he can give out great big hugs and kisses to everyone, especially to little girls in the first grade."
  • Remembering An American Hero

    Posted on 12/14/13 - by Curt Carter
    Dear Colonel John Francis O'Grady, sir

    As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

    May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

    With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

    Curt Carter
  • Dad

    Posted on 6/21/13 - by Diana O'Grady-Williams

    On this Memorial Day, I remember all the good times we shared when you were with us. You left us all to soon. Your seven children miss you terribly. Our lives could have been so different. Yet, life often throws us curve ball's. I miss you Daddy, as if I lost you only yesterday. I always will; no matter how much time passes or how old I become.

    I know you are looking down from heaven, upon us all. That Mema and Deda sit by your side embracing the son they missed for so long.

    The wounds of yesterday remain open. Only in death will our family find solace, healing, and only then will all truths and betrayals be known.

    You loved and respected your government; enough to die for them,you are saddened by those who continually degrade what you stood for.You know that I support the continuous efforts to bring your remains home that continues to be made by the JPAC recovery teams.

    Dad, you are home, you live on in my heart, with God in heaven; you walk with each of us daily. Sometimes saddened by our choices and treatment of one another, yet never do you stop loving us or being with us. You know who abandoned me, who violated me, you know all.

    I do not listen to the lies about the dedicated menwomen of the JPAC teams and I know there are no conspiracy theories. For those who are not of a balanced mind; I will continue to pray.

    I hope that those who continue to write myths about such things might somehow make peace with the sacrifice you made. Accepting your heroism and allowing you to rest in peace, as you so deserve.

    I have learned to make peace myself with what is not and what cannot be.

    I Thank you Dad for ensuring my freedoms and the freedoms of all. I love you, I miss you and I Thank you and all of our Service men and women.

    God Bless America

    Remembering you Today and Always

  • The Phone Call

    Posted on 5/3/13 - by Tara O'Grady

    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.

    Everyone deals with grief in a different manner, some people need to bury it and move on, concealing all memories, as those recollections are just too painful. Others need constant reminders of their lost loved one. a desire to reminisce, stare at old photographs, re-read letters and cling to every precious memory. My mother’s way of grieving was to lock away all her recollections and throw away the key.

    Photographs, old movies, audio recordings and letters disappeared from sight. This must of been the only way she was able to cope. These differences in the grieving process became another point of contention between the members of The O’Grady Family.

    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. She 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 despite their constant threats and harassment she insisted she would stay to witness the discovery of our fathers remains,

    On May 26th 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. 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?

    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 rollercoaster 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 POWMIA 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.

  • Biography

    Posted on 5/3/13 - by Tara O'Grady

    John O'Grady was born on August 31, 1929 in New Hyde Park, New York to Irish immigrants. He attended La Salle High School Military Academy. He attained the top ranking of his class and reached the top ten of all students attending H.S. Military Academies across the United States. 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, he had brown very curly 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. O'Grady was a very loving and involved dad. He embodied compassion and strength and as a father utilized strict but gentle discipline. He lived life to the fullest and savored each moment. He had an incredible zest for living and he instilled his passion for life and learning into his children.

    As an Air Force family the O'Grady's relocated every couple of years, but the Colonel worked hard to ensure easy 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 his children to make the best of their situation, by making new friends, getting involved in sports and other 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, with his homemade costume he would go out and surprise all the neighborhood kids. He played games with us, took us on nature walks, read stories to us and taught us many lessons of life and living. He taught his children manners and to respect others, and he encouraged us to explore, learn, teach, achieve, question and seek answers. Most importantly he lived his life in an exemplary manner which his children tried to emulate.

    Another memory is at Christmas , he would lead all 7 children in a great rendition of the song 'The Little Drummer Boy' using instruments, he would conduct the family orchestra. I can recall when it snowed, while we were living in Maryland, him taking all the kids. even the neighborhood kids, on the sled down the steep hill we lived on. He was a hands on Dad!

    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. Later, he would go on to have 19 grandchildren,that sadly will never know how awesome 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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The Wall of Faces

Brought to you by the organization that built The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Virtual Memorial Wall is dedicated to honoring, remembering and sharing the legacies of all those who died in the Vietnam War. Here you can go beyond the names on The Wall to see the faces, share the stories and read the remembrances posted by friends, neighbors, classmates and family members.