I was very happy to hear from you and also very impressed with the website. I only heard about it last week from Jim's mom, who didn't tell me about it for almost a whole year. Pat Kenny had called her, but it took her some time to deal with it and tell me about it. She did not read the story on the web either until last week when I printed it out. Since then it has created a lot of discussion and reflection among our family. Jim's son, Jeff, who was only a year old at the time of Jim's death, got to read the narratives also. It is a wonderful thing that you are doing.
This is what I wrote on the Flight log: (Please understand that it was a rather spontaneous and emotional response to my first reading the story)
Lt. Jim Gillies was my husband and the father of our one year old son at the time he was killed in Vietnam. Although a short explanation of his death was provided at the time, I had never read a complete narrative of what actually happened that night. Through the years I always wondered. Maybe part of me was not ready to hear the whole story....until now. I think it is good for those of you who survived the trauma of Vietnam to share your experiences and to pay tribute to those who did not survive.
For me, although it was good to finally hear the whole story, it was also upsetting to know that Jim was left behind. The doctor states that he died instantly from the trauma of the crash, but I wonder how he can really know this....
They say that time heals all wounds but it is amazing how quickly a wound can reopen. Jim's son was my blessing, and I have since remarried and have 2 more sons. But I will always wonder what would have been or could have been if that fateful night of August 7,1970 had turned out differently.
I am thankful for the efforts of the recovery team that returned to the crash site the next day and retrieved Jim's body, sparing us the agony of MIA status. I am sure that the Vietnam experience has left deep emotional scars on many who returned. I remember getting a letter from the Chaplain of Jim's unit shortly after his death, stating that although the hopes and dreams I had for this life would not materialize in the way that I had planned, that I would go on, with God's help, to other hopes and other dreams. The real tragedy of Vietnam lies with the 58,000 young men who never had a chance to fulfill their hopes and dreams. Thank you for remembering them!
Thank you for your email and for the wonderful things you are doing in establishing this website, which is truly amazing. I hope I get to meet you someday.
Dear Pat, Bob and Frank,
I wanted to respond to all 3 of you since I have heard from all of you. Pat, I just heard from you today and I also received Frank's acknowledgement of how sincere and caring your message was. Please do not apologize for opening old wounds because I want you to know that the good that this communication and the website is doing for myself and my family is worth any pain stirred up from the past. First of all, it was so good for Jim's son, Jeff, to be able to read about his father. And as I have said before, it was good for me also to put some questions to rest once and for all, and I am sure for his mother also. Please do not have any doubts that I know that you did everything in your power to rescue Jim and all of the crew for from the helicopter. My first response to reading the narratives was very emotional and I hope I did not leave you with the wrong feeling. For so many years I never knew exactly what happened and I couldn't help second guessing when I first read those stories. Pat, your message leaves me with no doubts that you, Bob, and the rest of the crewmen aboard those helicopters did everything possible. Jim knew that he was doing a dangerous job that might cost his life when he went to Vietnam (as you all did). I remember in some of his letters he would say that he was glad to be doing medevacs because it was something worthwhile that made him feel he was actually doing some good over there. In one of his last letters to me, he said something about being a better person, a better husband and father when he came home. He was already an excellent husband and father, so I didn't know where that was coming from. In that same letter he said something about how he couldn't believe how apprehensive he was (that it was just something there and it affected everything he did). I think that Jim had a premonition and when I read that letter I had one too. I wanted to call Vietnam and tell them to send my husband home because something terrible was going to happen. Then I thought how rediculous that was. I haven't told that story to very many people but I am telling the 3 of you because I want you to know that for whatever reasons, which we will never know in this life, it was Jim's time to go and be with God. I really do believe this and I hope and pray that someday I will understand why.
I am so glad for this opportunity to know what happened and to communicate with all of you. I can only thank you for the courage you had to rescue everyone that night and also for the courage you are now showing in writing your narratives on the website and in getting in touch with me and other families like mine. I feel like words cannot express how I really feel and how grateful I am to all of you. I know the scars of Vietnam will haunt us all for the rest of our lives. I pray that we will all find peace. I cannot tell you enough how much I admire each of you and the work you are doing in preserving the memories of those who sacrificed their lives and those who came back and had to pick up the pieces.
On a lighter note, I hope we will all get to meet someday. I am so excited about joining the Helicopter Association and I hope I will be able to attend the next reunion in Pensacola with Jim's son, Jeff, and his mother. It will be hard to go back there but there are a lot of good memories too. Jeff would get to see where he was born. I promise to look for pictures.
Thanks so much again and I am sure we will keep in touch. I love all you guys and I haven't even met you!
Read the narrative about 1stLt. Gillies by clicking below.
YK-16 Shot Down on Night MEDEVAC
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