The Right Thing

 

A Long Long time ago in a Land Far Far away was a man. A man with a Family, Friends and Comrades. A man with a mission. One he would give his life for, but it would take his Family 33 yrs to find out what really happened. Why so long for a man that loved his country and only wanted to do The Right Thing. Help those that could not help themselves. He zigged when he should have zagged. A man that was already to old to go to War, but a man that wanted to do The Right Thing. So he pulled every last string to go, were he thought he could prove himself to himself and to others, because he was shit hot, and was on the Fast Track.  His goal by 1974 was to be CINCPAC. He was to help start up a new program, that the Navy was going to start for it's Fighter Pilots. This program is known to the rest of the world as Top Gun.  But all this ended on May 19th 1967, when after being hit by 2 Surface to Air Missiles, and after using the Command Ejection to punch out his RIO but was not able to punch himself out. He rode it in all the way to the rice paddy. 12 ft under it that is. Flying at 1200 ft and traveling at 450 knots doesn't give you that much room to maneuver.  33 yrs 5 month and 19 days ago, he is now home.  But why did it take so long?  Why did it take so much work and hurt to bring him home?
His Wife never had a time to grieve, like most wives she had a family to raise.  She tried to find the answers but was met with closed doors. She tried to open them, for the truth is what drove her, the not knowing is the worst. You can only hope for the best.  We all have heard stories how a man came home after missing or thought of as dead for so long.
He had 4 boys and each handled it very differently.
The oldest, felt that he had to take over the manly duties, this is too much for a 13 yr old to handle but being the oldest......
The 2nd oldest felt that his dad was dead, case closed.
The next oldest boy wrote a letter to LBJ asking him to either bring his daddy home or bomb Hanoi with the A bomb.
The Youngest being only 4 had just only memory, being put in the cockpit of his dad's fighter plane.
See I know these things as I am the youngest of the Boys.  I can remember seeing a Navy man come to the door and mom crying.  Why did this man make my mom cry?  Men aren't allowed to do that, or this is how I was brought up.  You protect the woman as she takes care of you.  But Mom was crying but only for a short time as she had to raise "The Boys" or "The Rich Boys". But 3 of theses boys had to grow up a lot on May 19th, 1967. I was to drugged up to really understand what was going on. I can remember having a teacher tell me that my dad deserved to die as he was a baby killer. But I would tell people that my dad was on a secret mission or that he just wasn't home yet, but he would come home soon.  See I am told that, we, my Dad and I had a very special relationship and to this day that is what brought him home.  33 yrs later. Besides keeping him alive, just not with me for many many years because I wanted a Dad; Someone to teach me to play catch or hit a ball, or ride a bike, or how to go on a date and how to ask a girl out, to drive a car, to go to FAther and Sons Dinners/days/banquets with. Mom would go with me or have on of our neighbors take me but it wasn't the same. When I turned 15 I finally understood what happened to dad, as I said earlier I was pretty drugged up during the 1st 28 yrs of my life.  I finally realized that he wasn't' coming home, see he was Missing In Action or MIA. I started to tell people that one day he would come home, I started wearing POW/MIA hats and T-Shirts and Pins, reading books about Vietnam and on POW's. I told people that we left m Dad behind and had to go get him, as it was only The Right Thing To Do.
He would have done the same for you. Little by little I became more involved in the POW/MIA issue. I remember having been told by many adults to just stop whining and give up, they were all dead anyway, but that just made my resolve even stronger.  What hurt a lot was when a Vietnam Vet, they are all my Hero's, asked me why I was wearing "That Shirt". I told him why and he told me, so, that only Vets had the right to wear that shirt. That hurt a lot, one of my Hero's telling me that I couldn't help bring my Dad home, where he belonged to American Soil. But I kept going, in the Background until 1990 when I met a man that helped mold me into what I am today in this issue.  I got my Dads files and he and I went through them with a fine tooth comb one day. He made a Plan of Attack  and we started our War, to bring Dad home.  So the last 10 yrs. has been a long battle that looked like it was going to where until 1997 when my Family got a report saying that they found the crash site and was just going to give up.
It took hundreds upon hundreds of people to get dads case open again. But big break occurred in 1999 when my friend, talked to General Tucker of the JTFFA and got my dad moved up from a secondary site to a primary one.  This was a after I was told for a year that it would be a primary site and be done during the dry season as they had to drain the Rice Paddy to get to where they needed to be.
In October 1999 I know dad's site was to be the 1st secondary site. But after trying to locate a site for 10 days it was now dads turn.  So in October 1999 they opened the crash site. I was told that there was a lot of possible human remains, but it turned out to be just wood.  So in Feb. of 2000 they went back to the my dads site to dig some more. I got a call on March 13th that SECDEF Cohen was at my Dads site and was it ok to give my name to the press. I am sure a lot of you remember all the press my Dad Got.
They were able to pull 30 bone chips, a tooth, half a pair of Flight Wings and a log of aircraft and personal effects.
In September of 2000 I was told that the Lab (CILHI) had identified his remains by matching dental records with a tooth found at the site.  On October 10th, 3 days after I got married to my New Wife, my mom and I were presented the "Blue Book" of the governments proof of Identification. Now 3 weeks later we have buried my Father with Full Military Honors at Arlington National Cemetery. See I finally got my six feet of ground at Arlington.

We Did The Right Thing.

Welcome Home Dad.

It has been a long time coming.

I love you.
Your Son,

Chris Rich

Written 11/5/00
Read 11/7/00

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