Michael Blassie was an Air Force pilot sent to fly missions in Vietnam in 1972. It was a time of reduced troops. At the height of the war in the late 60s, there were 500,000 troops. When Blassie arrived there were about 25,000 who were stretched to the limit. On his 132nd bombing mission he was shot down over territory held by North Vietnam. A helicopter team was sent in to retrieve the body but enemy fire forced them to retreat.
Five months later a fellow named Chris Calhoon, who was responsible for calling in airstrikes, at the urging of some of Blassie’s pilot friends, got approval to send in some South Vietnamese soldiers to retrieve the body. They returned with some bones but also his wallet and other identifying information. But given there was no DNA testing at that time, and no way to conclusively identify him by military standards, he was declared missing in action and declared dead. The recovered bones were eventually placed in the tomb of the Unknown honoring other unidentified Vietnam military.
The story took a turn in 1994 when a former Green Beret called the Blassie family, indicating he believed that the government was not telling all that it knew about Michael Blassie’s remains. Another three years passed and a CBS reporter in Denver got wind of the story and, while skeptical, decided to pursue it.
The upshot of this story is that there was finally a congressional inquiry and ultimately a positive ID by DNA and return of the body to Blassie’s family. Because of the actions first of Calhoon; the troops he sent in to recover the body; later by the Green Beret who created doubt; and then the journalist who decided to investigate, this outcome was possible.
After learning this story, I heard another one of a fellow who received a call from someone in Ghana, trying to sell “gift cards.” The person who got the call confronted the caller: “This is a scam. You are targeting elderly people trying to take their money. Hank up from this call and call me back.” And the scammer did call him back and the two made a connection that has persisted through the years. His father had died and he was trying to make a living to care for his sick mother. But the connection he made with the man he had called motivated him to change his direction. He is now working to come to the United States where he wants to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
In these events, I hear a challenge to us to never deny the power a single individual has to impact a situation that might seem impossible to influence.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate.
Hope’s Café Bonus: “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés ( A quote I love!)