Two weeks ago, I visited Bill Ochs to interview him about the day he answered a phone call that would change my life forever.
Bill Ochs and my father served in the military during the Vietnam war. Bill was a Senior Advisor. Due to serving in different grades in the Army they had very minimal contact and no reason to believe, that once out of the military, their paths would ever cross again.
After retiring from active duty, Bill went to work for the U.S. Department of Energy. My family was living in a refugee camp in Guam. During an interview with my father, Red Cross asked if he knew of anyone, he served with during the Vietnam war, who would be interested in sponsoring our family. My father remembered Bill Ochs name, which is amazing considering this was eight years later and no reason for either man to recall the other. As a matter of fact, it was recalled later that Bill Ochs didn’t remember my father.
What happened next I can only describe as divine intervention! The lady from Red Cross said to my father “Well, I know Colonel Ochs.” “My aunt is married to his father-in-law, General Gaither”. I cannot imagine what a feeling of relief my father experienced when he made that connection of recalling Bill Ochs name and the lady from Red Cross knowing him. Out of all 995,000 refugees trying to immigrate to the United States at that time, it was like winning the lottery ticket. The lady contacted her aunt to try to locate Colonel Ochs.
Bill answered the call one afternoon while working at the U.S. Department of Energy. A Red Cross representative indicated a family living in a Guam refugee camp had identified Colonel Ochs as someone who might want to sponsor the family. At first, Bill was reluctant to move forward with such a responsibility, He contacted his wife to obtain her input on the decision. Ultimately, his conscience would not let him or Betty say “no”. “Betty deserves all the credit in this matter” Bill remembers. He felt it was an awesome responsibility, but in the end Betty and Bill concluded that “we’d rather regret having done it than not regret for not having done it. To say “we’ll do it” was the right decision and I feel right about doing it”. Bill and Betty told the Red Cross representative they would sponsor the family, assuming they would have a few weeks to get ready, but the week of the Ochs’ decision, my family was already boarding a flight to Dulles International Airport, Washington D.C.
At the end of our interview I asked Bill where he felt his responsibility begins and ends with sponsoring a family to the U.S. Bill and Betty felt a deep sense of long term commitment. He encountered a different perspective of family sponsorship after his personal experience with our family. As many other refugees found churches and relief organizations to sponsor their flight from Vietnam, Bill and Betty did not have such a support structure. They relied on assistance from friends and families. Bill said, “I found to get things done, you got to do it yourself or rely on your own resources. Bob McDaniel deserves a great deal of credit for finding your father and mother their first job”. To this very day, Bill thinks of me as one of his own daughters.
The quote “we’d rather regret having done it than not regret for not having done it” means a lot more to me now. It teaches me not to regret, but to only learn and embrace my experiences in life.