The bells you heard are those of a Captain Coming Aboard his Duty Station.
For many years, people have seen my page and have wondered what really happened to my Father, even though it's only been three. Now that he is home you can find out the rest of the story. Go get a cup of coffee or a soda and sit down. This might take awhile.
There was a man, as the song goes was the Fortunate son he had the watch made of gold. He didn't have to join the Navy but he wanted to. He loved Flying and he loved Water so really the only thing he could have done was to be a pilot in the US Navy. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he did the Wall Street thing but found it boring. He tried his hand at the Olympics in Sailing, took a medal but it was still boring. So he tried Ski Jumping in the Olympics, no medal this time but just no thrill in it. So he joined the Navy in 1945 as a Seaman. After WWII he went into the active reserves while he returned to college. After that he joined OCS or Officer Candidate School, many of you have seen "An Officer and a Gentleman", from OCS was on to his dream. Flight School. While in Flight Training a little skirmish started in a place they called Korea, so he didn't have a chance to prove himself, but during he flight training he met this woman and from what I am told on the third date asked her to Marry her. His Commanders noticed something though, that he wasn't just a pilot, he was a Shit Hot Pilot. He moved from Rotor to Jet to F4's the baddest thing around in the early 60's. But seeing that he joined Flight School so late and Missed Korea he was still missing something, the ability to prove himself to himself and his comrades. So when Vietnam started. Remember we went there to stop the Domino effect from a country that loved us, because we were helping them from the clutches of Communism.
He became the XO (Executive Officer) of the World Famous Fighting Falcons or the VF-96. On his 99th mission, with only 15 days before the USS Enterprise was to leave Yankee Station, he and several Flight squadrons sprang a three prong attack on May 19, 1967 in North Vietnam. 10 Navy Flyers were shot down that day. 6 were Captured and returned in Operation Homecoming, But 4 did not come home, my Dad being one of them. This is where it gets confusing now.
My dad's RIO or backseater was captured in a village.
We (The US government) knew the name of the village.
"witness's" confirmed that a jet crashed in that village in a rice paddy on that day.
It took 33 years to get him.
Why did it take so long to go get my Dad?
Why did we have to wait for so many years?
Why was the rice paddy a restricted area?
Why did the government treat the family like dirt.
In my opinion the treatment is getting a little better, but that in itself is a controversial issue.
I have people ask me all the time, what does it feel like? I ask, "to be one of the Lucky Ones?"
October 1999, I am informed that JTF and CilHi are opening my Dad Site.
November 1999, I am told that they have possible Human Remains.
March 2000, When I first heard that Secretary of Defense Cohen was at my dads crash site, I called it a PR campaign. Why would the SECDEF go to my Dads Crash site. Also during this time I called it Proposed as I did not want to get into a jam if it really wasn't my dads site.
May 2000, I am informed a local Family meeting that the bone fragments from the October dig are not human.
June 2000, I am told that the bone fragments are Human from the March Dig. Also I am told to expect an answer with in 90 days.
September 2000, I call CilHi, their 90 days are up. I ask them about the bone fragments. I am told that the fragments are to small and perforated to pull an MT-DNA out of. But they are working on a tooth and it is at a Forensic Ondontologist. That they should have an answer in two weeks. So fourteen days later I call back and am told that CilHi had just received the final report 6 hours earlier. I asked them what the findings were and he told me that they made a Positive Identification.
October 2000, Now this was a busy month as I was getting Married on the 7th. On the 10th my Mom and I were presented with "The Blue Book", a book saying Why the Us Government felt that the 33 bone chips, tooth and half a pair of Flight Wings was my Dad or what was left of him, physically. No still didn't feel any closure.
This is when the real work started. Being the Primary Next of Kin or (PNOK), it was my responsibility to inform the Family, my dads BackSeater and Friends that were there for my Family when we needed them. Reservations had to be made for Flights and Hotels. Arrangements set up for the service. Did we want a Coffin of an Urn. Did we want viewing Hours? If so, where? Were they to be public? Did we want the media involved? Remember this became a media Blitz because of SECDEF being at the Site. What did we want for the service? What was to be on the Headstone? No one else could tell the Government these things. It was my responsibility, and only mine.
November, 2000, My flight arrangements had been made. But my wife Diane wasn't able to go with me as a co-escort. Who says this Community isn't tight. Two People got together and bought my wife a ticket that matched mine, I know how much it is but I won't mention it. Just Thank you from the Bottom of my heart.
On the 2nd, WE left from Augusta Airport and flew in to Atlanta, Ran to our next flight to Dallas than on to Honolulu. No, still no feeling of Closure. A Navy Master Chief picked us up showed us a little of the Island and took us to our hotel with a 8:30am pick up time to go to the lab the next morning. Being tired we did a bus tour of Honolulu and grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant by the beach. Back to the hotel and to bed as it might have only been 10:30pm Hawaii time it was 3:30AM Eastern Time and we had been up since 4:30 the morning before. 6:00am came early but had to get ready, pack everything up and get some breakfast before 8:30.
CilHi, WOW what can I say just WOW. We were met at the door by Col. David Pagano, Johnnie Webb, Dr. Tom Holland and several members that were on my dads team. They took us to the Briefing room for a Command Briefing. No feeling of Closure yet. Unbelievable though having a room full of High ranking officers and government officials there for you. Then they gave Diane and I a tour of CilHi and to show us the Remains of my Dad. Like I said 33 bone chips, a tooth and a half a pair or flight wings. Still no feeling of Closure.
The Master Chief gave us the nickel tour of the Island with even a picture of us on the Beach, getting to see "Gilligan's Island" and of course the Arizona, even though we didn't get to go out and see it. Than off to the Airport to our flight to Chicago. Red Eye Flight, you got to love them. So from a packed flight to Chicago were we had to take turns to breath then to a little puddle jumper to DC, I think it was a 35 seater. Now this whole time I have been carrying this box which held my dads urn which held his remains. This flight had maybe 10 people on it. Di and I were in a row with 3 seats so she took the window and I took the Isle, and strapped the box in the middle seat between us. When the Flight Attendant came back and told us that wasn't allowed. We explained what was in the box and that I really didn't want it on the ground. She said she would have to go talk with the Captain. He came back and told us that due to FAA regulations it wasn't allowed but he would be honored if we would allow the urn to be placed behind the captains seat in the cockpit. Dad Left Home in the cockpit and Came home in the Cockpit. So in 26 hours we did the Augusta, Atlanta, Dallas, Honolulu, Chicago, Washington DC thing.
A First LT met as at the airport, her first time at this and took us to our hotel were we had reservations and rooms paid for. But some how the wires got crossed and there was a big hassle, all we wanted to do was sleep. We met with the funeral home and handed over the urn. Still no Closure.
Over the next couple of days family and relatives filter in. I knew that I was going to say something at the services but wanted it to come from the heart. Two days before the services I sat down in Mom's room and just started to write. What came out is called The Right Thing.
The day before the services we had private viewing. Mom, my brother and I each handled this differently but we all grieved, some openly some not.
November 7, 2001, A day that I had waited for since I understood what happened to dad but a day that I dreaded too. For one it means that he is home on American Soil but, two it means that he dead in the crash.
As we all got ready, we met downstairs for breakfast and the ride over to Arlington. I had some paperwork to do and had to meet with the Chaplin and discuss how the service was to go. I told him that I had something to read and that it would take about 7-8 minutes. He didn't even know that Dad was MIA until I told him. No I still didn't feel any closure.
People started to come in, there was someone from each of Dads squadron's, now that was impressive. Of Course mom knew them and they all talked before the services. During this time you could hear the Navy Band playing outside and the honor guard getting ready. No still no Closure.
Then the Services started, after the opening ceremony the Chaplin called me up where I read The Right Thing. Several other things were said and than the Honor Guard took the Urn out to put on the Cession for the Ride to the Site.
It wasn't until we were about half to the gravesite when I felt this huge weight lifted off my shoulders and a feeling of peace came over me. That is when I turned to my Wife and Said, It's over.
Captain Richard Rich Is
after33 years of being listed as
Missing In Action, he finally has his six feet on
The star is there. Yes really look it is a star and not a cross.
For those of you that don't
understand the above statement, when a person is POW/MIA they have a
cross next to their name. When the person is identified the cross is
turned into a star. All the families work for a star but only
a lucky ones get one. I was one of the lucky ones.
One More Roll
We toast our hearty
Comrades who have fallen
From the skies, and were
Gently caught by God's own
Hands to be with him on high.
To dwell among the soaring
Clouds they've known so well
Before, from victory roll to
Tail chase at heavens very
And as we fly among them
There we're sure to hear
Their plea, "Take care my
Friend, watch your six, and do
One more roll for me."
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