The story of Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner in the movie is true. There’s much more to the story, which involves me and my family. Really.
It happened like this…
1972. Hubby is an Ensign in the Navy, headed to Vietnam on the carrier USS Kennedy. His squadron was VF-32, the same squadron as Brown and Hudner. He heard the story. Everyone in VF-32 knew the story of Brown and Hudner.
2005. Son was assigned to his first Navy squadron, amazingly also VF-32. We visited him in Virginia Beach, and he showed us the Ready Room and the squadron hanger. I still remember walking down the hallway and seeing Jesse Brown’s portrait on the wall. I asked about him, and our son gave us the ‘long and proud’ story. VF-32 will always honor these heroes.
At the same time, our son’s school reached out to alumni, ‘what are you doing now’, for their annual bulletin. Hubby wrote what our son was doing. Low and behold he got a phone call from the Development Director:
“Hi Steve. Thank you for writing about your son. I was so excited to read that he is assigned to VF-32. This is Tom Hudner. My father was also Tom Hudner, and assigned to VF-32.”
Well… as you can imagine, that was a long and memorable conversation. What a connection! Hudner flew the F4U Corsair. Hubby flew the F4 Phantom. Son flew the F18 Super Hornet.
Oh, there’s more…
July 2010. The newest Fisher House was built in Boston. Fisher Houses are a wonderful charity of the Fisher family- Zachary Fisher recovered the USS Intrepid (ready to be scrapped) and turned it into a museum in NYC. His family now builds houses alongside VA hospitals for families of soldiers to have a place to stay. As is the tradition, Medal of Honor recipients participate in the groundbreaking ceremony.
Captain Tom Hudner USN was there.
April 2011. My class gifted our God Bless America quilt to the Boston Fisher House, after it was invited to be on display at the Intrepid Museum. For those of you who know my Milly the Quilter blog posts, this is a wonderful story. Here is a snippet: https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/07/31/milly-part-6/
I saw Tom Hudner’s picture on the wall of the Fisher House, holding a shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony.
July 2011. This was the one-year anniversary of the Fisher House. The quilt was the heart of the event. The Fisher Family was there, as is the custom at a one-year anniversary. We sang, presented the quilt, and received Command Coins from the Fishers. I made sure I walked over to Tom Hudner’s photo. I talked to him (really):
“Tom, you were the main event a year ago when the Fisher House opened, and I am the main event event at the one-year anniversary. What an honor to be a little part of you.”
July, 2013. Tom Hudner returned to Korea to try to find Jesse Brown’s remains, or the remains of the aircraft. He was 89 years ‘young’. He did not find anything, yet he never gave up after all those years. His son, Tom, told Hubby that his dad looked after Jesse Brown’s wife and remained friends for the rest of his life.
Tom Hudner was a real hero and role model for how to live your life – Ship, Shipmate, Self – as they say in the Navy.