O'Grady: American Hero, Improbable Rambo
Jun. 10, 1995
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ President Clinton calls Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady an American hero. Those who know the 29-year-old pilot best call him ``an improbable Rambo.''
The folks back home weren't surprised that O'Grady had the right stuff to hide out for six days after Bosnian Serbs shot down his F-16C on June 2.
``If he made it out of the plane, I wasn't worried about his survival or not. He's been well trained,'' said his brother Paul, of Chapel Hill, N.C. ``I knew he'd be OK.''
And O'Grady's self-effacing response to all the attention _ he said Saturday that he hid like a ``scared little bunny rabbit'' _ didn't surprise his family or people in this eastern Washington city of 185,000, where he grew up.
``He'd probably be the last one to want to be a hero,'' said his mother, Mary Lou Scardapane, who lives in Seattle.
``He can't quite understand what all the big fuss is about,'' agreed his sister Stacy, who lives in Chicago.
Those who knew him in the old days would have expected no less.
``He's the kind of person you want in the military forces because he's calm and cool and intelligent and does what he needs to do,'' said Laural Hepton, a Spanish teacher who remembers O'Grady as a student at Lewis & Clark High School.
``He was just normal _ active, sports-loving, fun-loving, a little mischievous,'' said Mareen Ewing, whose son, Greg, has been O'Grady's best friend since junior high.
He's still something of a scamp, it seems.
O'Grady's mother and stepfather had planned to meet him in Italy on Wednesday. They canceled the vacation when he was shot down, but when they spoke right after his rescue, she said, O'Grady told her, ```I'll see you on the 14th, right?' Like nothing happened!''
And when O'Grady called his father after his rescue and talked with his brother and sister, ``there was a lot of kidding,'' William O'Grady recalled.
Not the most imposing of men, O'Grady's boyish face belies his grit.
His stepfather, Dr. Joseph Scardapane, described him as a lean, focused 5-foot-9 _ ``an improbable Rambo.''
Greg Ewing, meanwhile, has been thinking a lot about one time he and O'Grady went deer hunting in high school, when O'Grady borrowed a pair of old boots from his father.
``Every time he took a step, they squeaked,'' Ewing said. ``Every time I think of Scott evading the Serbs, I keep remembering him in these squeaky boots running through the woods.''