Jodie Hardman and Nikki Graham’s Story
On October 6, 1972, an F4E-Phantom jet piloted by U.S. Air Force Colonel Robert Anderson was shot down in Vietnam. The pilot’s wife Jerry and three daughters Debra, Lynda and six-and-a-half year-old Jodie were at home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Eleven days later on October 17, another Air Force pilot Captain Allen Graham of Mobile, Alabama, was similarly killed in action leaving his wife Susan and only child Nikki behind.
Years later, Jodie and Nikki, the airmen’s daughters, became employees of Bank of America, and in 2006 they were working for the same manager, but based in different states. Having noticed their similar stories, their manager introduced the two and they became friends.
Over time, they realized just how close their fathers’ stories were. Both men were sports fans, both loving fathers of daughters, and both had a real love of flying. They also both flew their missions out of Thailand and each man was missing in action for years after their planes were shot down ― Captain Graham for six years and Col. Anderson for 20. In 2009, Nikki and Jodie were both volunteering as mentors at the annual Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. During the visit, Jodie had an opportunity to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall. She located and photographed the inscription of her father’s name from among the 58,000 names that appear on the wall. But when she showed the photo to Nikki, her friend immediately saw her own father’s name, just below that of Jodie’s father.
“I started crying,” Nikki said. “We were both stunned and amazed and couldn’t really comprehend the coincidence.” Somehow Col. Anderson and Captain Graham’s names are engraved inches apart on the Memorial Wall, separated by one line.
“We realize that there’s more to discover and to share, to learn and to know,” said Jodie “We share this bond that is almost bizarre. In a company of so many employees, for people who work together to have both their fathers die in the same way and have their names two inches apart on the Vietnam Wall is incredible.”
Bruce Beagley’s Story
Bruce discusses the draft and shares how his time in Vietnam helped shape who he is today.