Tribune-Democrat: Fighter pilot will describe ordeal behind enemy lines to chamber audience
The Tribune-Democrat: Shot down over Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 1995, then Air Force Capt. Scott O’Grady survived for six days while eluding Serbian forces before eventually being rescued by Marines amid a barrage of hostile enemy fire.
Not many people can relate to that harrowing experience in a firsthand sense.
But all individuals encounter tough situations at home, work and elsewhere.
From that perspective, O’Grady believes his story is one that can benefit a wide audience.
“We all go through difficulties, and challenges, and hard times in life,” O’Grady said.
“And everyone has their own story and their own experiences. But we can all relate to the fact that we do face challenges.
“Hardships are unavoidable.
“So I just utilize this one hardship that I went through as an experience to entertain and also to talk about the serious issues of how I overcame a life-threatening experience where people can utilize that and relate that in their personal lives or in their professional lives.”
O’Grady is scheduled to talk about his incident during the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner March 2 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown.
“I will entertain everybody with the story of combat survival,” O’Grady said. “But what’s more important is I will tell them – and weave into (the story) – about the motivations that helped me survive that experience were my faith in God, the love I have for my family and my patriotism. And all three of those were the main inspirations that kept me alive.”
He was invited to speak at the event by Jack Babich, a board member of the Veterans Community Initiative, which is being honored that night with the chamber’s Cultural Affairs Award. Babich previously heard O’Grady speak to an audience at AmeriServ Financial.
“We had 280 employees in a room,” said Babich, AmeriServ Financial’s senior vice president for human resources and a Navy veteran. “And, for the entire 45 minutes that Scott spoke, you could hear a pin drop.
“There were tears. There was joy. There was laughter. There was crying. It’s inspirational.”
The award is given to organizations or individuals that foster business/art partnerships or render creative and/or innovative support of the arts.
“When Scott O’Grady was selected as our speaker, the next logical step was to honor VCI for the important work that they do to care for and enrich the lives of our veterans and active duty service members, who are such an important part of our community and heritage,” Mike Artim, the chamber’s CEO, said.
Tom Caulfield, director of Veteran Community Initiative, added: “We’re really thrilled. It’s kind of validating that we’re a big part of the community.”
Earlier in the day, Caulfield plans to give O’Grady a tour of VCI’s headquarters, located at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Upper Yoder.
“We want to kind of let him know the veteran community here is alive and well,” Caulfield said. “We’re proud of the high percentage of veterans that we do have in the area and how the community backs us up.”
They are also expected to visit Cambria County War Memorial Arena.