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Pilot Scott O’Grady to speak at Vail Christian

Air Force veteran whose F-16 was shot down was the inspiration for ‘Behind Enemy Lines’

In this June 12, 1995 file photo, President Bill Clinton applauds as Air Force pilot Scott O'Grady gestures during a welcome home ceremony for O'Grady at the Pentagon.
J.Scott Applewhite/AP

Air Force veteran and New York Times best-selling author Scott O’Grady, whose epic tale of survival in enemy territory was the inspiration for a 2001 film starring Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson, will give a 30-minute talk and 15-minute question-and-answer session in Grace Auditorium at Vail Christian on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Nick Bergquist, Vail Christian’s co-director of Christian Life and Theology co-chair is a friend of O’Grady, who attends Vail Church when he vacations in the valley. According to Head of School Steve O’Neil, O’Grady’s “deep faith in God and family, as well as his love for country,” are the traits Nick felt were most impressive and warranted a visit.

“It’s what motivated him to survive six days,” O’Neil wrote of O’Grady’s qualities in an email.



“I think we need more heroes — his will to survive — he’s just a normal person but he really is a hero.”

O’Neil hopes the event encourages attendees in their faiths. “I love that he finds joy in his faith, family and country.”



O’Grady’s F-16 was shot down on June 2, 1995, over Bosnia and Herzegovina by a Soviet-made anti-aircraft missile while the Air Force fighter pilot was helping to enforce the NATO no-fly zone policy in the area. He ejected from his plane and spent six days in hostile territory before being rescued by U.S. Marines. He wrote about his experience in “Return With Honor,” which spent six weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

“Behind Enemy Lines,“ which came out in 2001, is loosely based off of his story as well, though O’Grady himself took offense at the portrayal of his character “as a pilot who disobeys orders and swears.”

“Some parts of the movie are not accurate so it doesn’t truly represent Scott in the best light,” O’Neil stated of the film.

O’Neil hopes O’Grady’s talk will galvanize young people to think beyond themselves and unify “around a common cause that we’re all citizens of the United States.”

“To love our country — in the pledge we say one nation under God, and we need to return to that unifying principle,” he stated.


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