By Jim McDaniel
Char (my wife) and Helen Murray grew up together in Ormond Beach, Florida. They went to grammar school together in the 1950s, junior and high school, and shared four years together at Florida State University in the 1960s. They are still the best of friends.
Our families visit occasionally, and Char, Helen, and another childhood girlfriend spend a week together--off by themselves--once each year. This year they traveled to Boston to spend a week with the third grammar school-to-FSU buddy, Calista Force. Helen stopped off here with us in Virginia for a short visit on her way from Atlanta to Boston. This first photo shows Helen (on the left) and Char just before heading up to Boston. (Note Joe Kline's painting "Riders on the Storm," personalized as Dolphin 946, on the wall of my study.)
What a surprise she had for me!
Unknown to me, Helen had been working on something for me. Knowing what my tours in Vietnam meant to me, the friendships that have developed from them, and thinking of our brothers who were lost, this was something she said she just wanted to do.
Knowing I served in two different units during my two tours (the 174th AHC and the 116th AHC), Helen used the Internet and got names of lost crewmembers from both unit's home pages. She then painstakingly HAND STITCHED (letter-by-letter) a memorial pillow with the names of 78 crewmembers lost in Vietnam in both units. She worked on this pillow off and on for about a year.
Below I've included some photos of the details of this pillow, with the individual crewmember names clearly visible. Again, she chose a mixture of names from both the 174th Dolphins and Sharks and the 116th Hornets and Stingers, and included the three callsigns I used in the two units. Helen did not have room on the pillow to include all the losses each unit suffered, and she did not attempt to represent any specific time period during the war. It represents and honors all members lost. The detail blows me away. I can't imagine hand-stitching every letter individually!
What a WONDERFUL gift.