I first heard about SDIT in 1999 from my mother; she heard about it at a Gold Star Wives meeting. I signed up for the newsletter. One afternoon I sat down with the latest installment and began reading an article written by a Daughter about her MIA dad’s chopper wreck. Halfway through the article I realized that the pilot of that chopper had been my father. My father had died in the same wreck that she was describing in great detail. It was the most information I had ever heard about my father’s death; my family never knew very much about the wreck and we certainly had avoided the subject for the past 30 years. I was reading details of my father’s death, written by a woman I did not know.
I immediately contacted the Southern California chapter of SDIT to find out the woman’s name and address. After many attempts, finally someone helped me get in touch with her, and we soon had an emotional phone conversation sharing our common experience. It was the first time I had ever spoken to another person who had lost a father in Vietnam.
After that phone call, I began to look online for any information about my father’s two tours in Vietnam. I posted my query on several veterans’ websites, seeking anyone who had known my dad during that time. The vets answered, tentatively at first. I discovered that my father had been a Special Operations pilot for the Air Force/CIA MAC SOG. His work was so secret that even my mother knew nothing about his mission. He had earned 13 medals, including the Silver Star. Six months later, my mother and I attended a reunion of his unit in Kokomo, Indiana where I met several men who shared stories about my dad. Through these wonderful men, I have come to learn so much about my father that I could never have known otherwise.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001. I was filled with desire to help the military kids who I knew would soon learn first-hand the saddest part of war. I began to investigate how to help. I searched for organizations where I could volunteer. With my sister, I attended a SDIT campout where we were welcomed with a “sharing circle.” It was the first time we had ever met anyone else who had also lost a father to war. Through SDIT, I was able to participate in Snowball Express, a charitable event for the newly bereaved military families from the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars. I entered the university so I could research more about war’s impact on the bereaved military family. What I found was next to nothing; no real research was available on American war orphans. So for my master’s thesis I wrote a short book on the subject. I started a blog (http://soldiersfirstdaughter.blogspot.com/) and had an article printed in the Louisville Courier-Journal (my dad’s hometown). I still receive messages from vets who find my articles online – just two months ago I was contacted by a man who told me that my father had saved his life in battle. After two emotional phone calls, my sister and I met with Mr. Terry Curry who told us vivid stories that made us see what kind of a man our dad was.
Because of that little article in the SDIT newsletter, I have embarked on a journey that has led me and my family to tremendous healing. I have found a part of me I didn’t even know was missing. I hold this organization in my heart with fondness, and I hope I can somehow return the favor by helping others find something they might not even know they are searching for.