Faith kept him alive after his fighter jet was shot down over Bosnia in 1995, Scott O’Grady told a Denton group last week.
The Air Force fighter pilot was patrolling a no-fly zone when his F-16 was hit by an enemy missile. A few seconds later, the plane was engulfed in flames and he ejected.
During those few seconds, he prayed to be kept alive, O’Grady said. He manually deployed his parachute and landed in enemy territory, where he would struggle to survive for six days.
“Those six days were the most enriching days of my life,” he told those who attended the Salvation Army “Doing the Most Good” luncheon last week at Apogee Stadium.
The luncheon is held every year to raise money for the organization’s shelter on McKinney Street, as well as to honor those who work closely with the organization.
Carlos Hernandez said he and his wife, Carol, have been working as administrators for the Salvation Army in Denton for three years.
Hernandez said the money raised last week is still being calculated, but he believes the total would be close to last year’s $38,000.
O’Grady, who spent 12 years in the U.S. Air Force, was the featured speaker for the luncheon Wednesday.
He said faith in his savior, Jesus Christ, is the No. 1 reason he survived his ordeal, followed by love for his family and his country.
O’Grady said he didn’t sleep at night and maybe took a 20-minute nap during the day.
On the fifth day, with very little battery life remaining on his radio, he was dehydrated, several pounds lighter and unable to feel his toes because of the cold.
But throughout the ordeal, O’Grady said, he never doubted that he had his fellow Americans’ support.
After spending six grueling days behind enemy lines, he was rescued by a team of Marines — “mostly camouflaged and masked 19-year-olds,” he said, who were willing to put their lives on the line and save him.
The sight of a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter coming over the horizon was one of the most beautiful sights he has ever seen in his life, O’Grady said.
He thanked the Salvation Army for the organization’s help for past generations of his extended family so he could be who he is today.
“If it wasn’t for the Salvation Army giving to my grandfather, I don’t know what would have happened to my mother and her ability to achieve the American dream, and how that would impact future generations [of our family],” O’Grady said.
His presentation was summed up by his own definition of hero.
“The real heroes in life are the people that do things to help other people,” O’Grady said.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.