Meeting News

Faith, family motivate Air Force Captain to survive after being shot down over Bosnia

Scott O'Grady
Scott O'Grady

WAILEA, Hawaii — On June 2, 1995, U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady was shot down in an F-16 fighter plane over Bosnia while on a mission to enforce the no-fly zone.

Throughout his six days hiding out in enemy territory and dedicated to his own survival, he learned to get closer to his faith.

“I was hunted down in a country where I don’t have a right to live,” O’Grady said at Hawaiian Eye 2018.

“I look at my entire survival through my faith in God,” he added.

His mission, along with another F-16 pilot, was not a war mission. They simply had to patrol the no-fly zone in northwestern Bosnia which the United Nations enacted at the time.

Even if their planes were shot, they were prohibited from shooting back. “We weren’t there as a war fighting entity,” he said.

He was alerted from the inside of his cockpit that a missile was coming towards him. Next thing he knew he was propelled out of the plane at hundreds of miles per hour and the nose of his plane had burst into flames.

As he descended in his parachute he could see a truck following his path. He was thinking, “why was this happening to me? Bad things weren’t supposed to happen to you.”

Once he landed in a wooded area, he was luckily able to disconnect his parachute, grab his survival rucksack and hide under the branches of a tree.

During the six days until he was rescued, he often saw enemy forces who were armed, he said. He also heard shots fired on multiple occasions.

“I saw my life as if I was watching a slideshow: my family, friends and experiences I hadn’t thought about for years all came back to me,” O’Grady said.

He was very sensitive to his own motion and noise. Rolling over or opening his pocket to get his compass could take 30 minutes. Standing up could take 2 hours.

O’Grady came to the assumption that no one knew he was alive.

He hid in three different spots throughout the six days and narrowly avoided enemy forces on multiple occasions.

Using his radio only at certain times to conserve battery life, he realized he had to move to higher elevation in order to make contact with his potential rescuers. Finally, O’Grady heard a transmission that would lead to his rescue. They arranged for rescue that same day.

The rescue team was made up of 61 people “and 62 came out and that was the greatest feeling,” he said. The camouflaged Marines who rescued him via helicopter averaged 19 years old.

“For me to be able to return home to my mother, father, and sister was the sole reason why I had a will to survive,” he said.

The rescue mission helicopters experienced both missile and ground fire. Inside the helicopter, O’Grady saw a bullet ricochet off a canteen worn by one of his rescuers.

“Even in the face of death, the greatest source of peace came through my relationship with God,” he said. O’Grady said he prayed constantly throughout the endeavor.

Once he returned to the U.S. and landed in Washington, D.C. he was met with a crowd of strangers with American flags and signs proclaiming that he was a hero.

To him, heroes are his family, friends and teachers – those who help other people. Ophthalmologists are heroes also, they help and change lives, he added.

Since 1995, he has traveled extensively and has come to believe that in the U.S., “we are truly blessed to live in this country with its rights and freedoms,” O’Grady said.

“In all our lives we are going to have tragedy, but we will also have beauty ... it’s important to maintain a sense of humor,” he said. – by Abigail Sutton

 

 

 

Scott O'Grady
Scott O'Grady

WAILEA, Hawaii — On June 2, 1995, U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady was shot down in an F-16 fighter plane over Bosnia while on a mission to enforce the no-fly zone.

Throughout his six days hiding out in enemy territory and dedicated to his own survival, he learned to get closer to his faith.

“I was hunted down in a country where I don’t have a right to live,” O’Grady said at Hawaiian Eye 2018.

“I look at my entire survival through my faith in God,” he added.

His mission, along with another F-16 pilot, was not a war mission. They simply had to patrol the no-fly zone in northwestern Bosnia which the United Nations enacted at the time.

Even if their planes were shot, they were prohibited from shooting back. “We weren’t there as a war fighting entity,” he said.

He was alerted from the inside of his cockpit that a missile was coming towards him. Next thing he knew he was propelled out of the plane at hundreds of miles per hour and the nose of his plane had burst into flames.

As he descended in his parachute he could see a truck following his path. He was thinking, “why was this happening to me? Bad things weren’t supposed to happen to you.”

Once he landed in a wooded area, he was luckily able to disconnect his parachute, grab his survival rucksack and hide under the branches of a tree.

During the six days until he was rescued, he often saw enemy forces who were armed, he said. He also heard shots fired on multiple occasions.

“I saw my life as if I was watching a slideshow: my family, friends and experiences I hadn’t thought about for years all came back to me,” O’Grady said.

He was very sensitive to his own motion and noise. Rolling over or opening his pocket to get his compass could take 30 minutes. Standing up could take 2 hours.

O’Grady came to the assumption that no one knew he was alive.

He hid in three different spots throughout the six days and narrowly avoided enemy forces on multiple occasions.

Using his radio only at certain times to conserve battery life, he realized he had to move to higher elevation in order to make contact with his potential rescuers. Finally, O’Grady heard a transmission that would lead to his rescue. They arranged for rescue that same day.

PAGE BREAK

The rescue team was made up of 61 people “and 62 came out and that was the greatest feeling,” he said. The camouflaged Marines who rescued him via helicopter averaged 19 years old.

“For me to be able to return home to my mother, father, and sister was the sole reason why I had a will to survive,” he said.

The rescue mission helicopters experienced both missile and ground fire. Inside the helicopter, O’Grady saw a bullet ricochet off a canteen worn by one of his rescuers.

“Even in the face of death, the greatest source of peace came through my relationship with God,” he said. O’Grady said he prayed constantly throughout the endeavor.

Once he returned to the U.S. and landed in Washington, D.C. he was met with a crowd of strangers with American flags and signs proclaiming that he was a hero.

To him, heroes are his family, friends and teachers – those who help other people. Ophthalmologists are heroes also, they help and change lives, he added.

Since 1995, he has traveled extensively and has come to believe that in the U.S., “we are truly blessed to live in this country with its rights and freedoms,” O’Grady said.

“In all our lives we are going to have tragedy, but we will also have beauty ... it’s important to maintain a sense of humor,” he said. – by Abigail Sutton

 

 

 

    See more from Hawaiian Eye/Retina Meeting