O’Grady’s Family Elated, Grateful
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ The family of Air Force Capt. Scott F. O’Grady, rescued six days after his F-16 was shot down by Serbs in Bosnia, say they knew the flier was made of the right stuff to survive in difficult conditions.
``We grew up in the Northwest. He was kind of used to that mountainous terrain,″ his brother, Paul O’Grady, said today in a telephone interview from his Alexandria, Va., home. They grew up in Spokane, Wash.
``If he made it out of the plane I wasn’t worried about his survival or not,″ he added. ``He’s been well trained. He’s told me about these survival things. I knew he’d be OK.″
The family’s main concern was that an accompanying pilot didn’t see O’Grady parachute, so they didn’t know for sure whether he had ejected.
Stacey O’Grady, the pilot’s sister, said the family had been braced for false rumors and bad news since her brother was shot down six days ago. She said her father had learned from officials that the Serbs had found his parachute and other belongings indicating he was alive.
``They said, `Your boy is out there somewhere,′ ″ she said. ``But my father did not want to tell us because we’ve had our hopes raised only to be dashed to the ground again.″
O’Grady suffered little more than a slight burn on his neck, some hunger pangs and dehydration, his sister said.
President Clinton called O’Grady’s family after the rescue.
``Captain O’Grady’s bravery and skill are an inspiration,″ Clinton said in a statement. ``So are the bravery and skill of those who took part in the operation to rescue him. They are all American heroes.″
Family members got the good news in a phone call from O’Grady, himself.
``I thought that perhaps I was dreaming,″ a beaming Stacey O’Grady told CBS ``This Morning.″ ``When I actually came to and realized he was alive, I was beside myself.″
Ms. O’Grady talked to her brother early this morning.
``He can’t quite understand what all the big fuss is about,″ she said. ``He said that he was only able to eat about three spoonfuls of food. He’s very dehydrated.″
Marine Col. Marty Berndt, who helped to coordinate the mission, hauled O’Grady aboard his helicopter.
``It won’t be very soon that I’ll forget the look on his face as he approached the helicopter this morning,″ Berndt said.
Berndt said O’Grady was very talkative, in good spirits _ and hungry.
Once on board, O’Grady took some water then ``dug right into a meal ready to eat, or MRE, so he must have really been hungry.″
O’Grady had had some water but had not eaten for the six days he was down, Berndt said.
Paul O’Grady praised his brother’s rescuers. ``I want to thank the armed forces, just from the bottom of my heart. I can’t thank them enough.″
And O’Grady had a message for his big brother: Meet you in Spain.
Every year for the past four years the two brothers have taken trips to exotic places to keep their relationship close, O’Grady explained. It started at Club Med on Martinique, then Hawaii, then to Austria for skiing and last year bob sledding in Italy.
This year, Paul O’Grady said he had planned to back out of a trip to Spain in July because he’s getting ready for dental school. His sister was going to take his place. But no longer.
``Now I’m going to make it,″ the younger O’Grady said. ``We’ll just eat like crazy and enjoy the sights.″
Their father, Dr. Bill O’Grady, said family members were with him at his home in Alexandria during the ordeal.
``We just prayed and remembered the past and we just knew Scott, if he was alive, could make it. But we didn’t know if he was alive or not,″ he told CNN.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 12, 1965, O’Grady grew up in Spokane, Wash., his home of record. He earned a degree in aerospace aviation management in 1989 from Embry-Riddic Aeronautical University, in Prescott, Ariz.
O’Grady was commissioned on April 20, 1989, and received pilot training in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. He served as an F-16 pilot in the Republic of Korea, in Germany and most recently in Italy, and had more than 780 hours of flying time.
O’Grady is single. His mother lives in Washington state.