A memory of McCain's trying times
When she was only a sophomore in high school, Jane (Ebertowski) Olson went to a peace rally at UND. It was 1968 and near the height of the U.S. buildup of troops and fighting in Vietnam, as well as concern stateside about the war. "I was issued a...
When she was only a sophomore in high school, Jane (Ebertowski) Olson went to a peace rally at UND.
It was 1968 and near the height of the U.S. buildup of troops and fighting in Vietnam, as well as concern stateside about the war.
"I was issued a POW bracelet," Olson said this week from her office in UND's Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, where she is assistant to the dean. "My POW bracelet happened to be Lt. Commander John McCain."
Now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, McCain was a Navy fighter pilot shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967 during a bombing run.
She had no idea who this McCain was at the time, but soon read newspaper articles about him being the son and grandson of admirals.
After McCain was released in March 1973, Olson stopped wearing the bracelet, but kept it and continued to follow McCain's rise to the national political stage. He won a seat in the U.S. House in 1982, and a seat in the Senate in 1986.
"I always admired him, and he was just so much in the public eye after he got back, I thought, 'whoa, this is pretty cool,' " Olson said.
Recently, she was going through old boxes and ran across the bracelet, along with some newspaper clippings about McCain when he was released, and a couple of POW stickers from the same peace rally in 1968.
"I thought I should write him and offer to send it back," she said. McCain wrote back, also via e-mail, thanking her for the offer.
Olson wasn't very political back then and isn't active in party politics now.
A co-worker who saw McCain's e-mail to her last week tipped off the Herald about it.
Olson said she's leaning toward voting for McCain this fall but counts herself still undecided.
Of course, UND and the Odegard School, despite the personal links to McCain, remain scrupulously nonpartisan, Olson said, not least because of the great support North Dakota's Democratic trio in Congress has provided over the years.
Olson, who has worked at UND for almost 30 years, seemed to be a precocious high school sophomore.
"We did a lot of things on campus," she said. "Just something we did back in high school. A group of us really cared about the war, because we knew people who got into it. I just went to listen to people talk. Not so much protesting as caring. We just believed in peace. We cared about it because a lot of people in our group, we had quite a few kids who were going to be drafted."
Many of her friends came back from the war broken and hurt, she said.
"One of my real good friends ... committed suicide about five years after he got back. He couldn't handle all the things he saw over there."
She was brought up in a family that honored both the military and peace.
Her father, Daniel Walter Ebertowski, fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, and her brother, Gary Ebertowski, recently retired from the North Dakota National Guard in Grand Forks. Her father died five years ago.
"My dad was an American through and through. Dad was really proud of fighting in the service."
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