Coolidge, Georgia-- While so many people run away from hurricanes like Katrina and Rita, some actually run into them. That was the case of a Navy Hurricane hunter from South Georgia who was killed 50 years ago this week on a mission.
"He joined the Hurricane Hunters, which I begged him not to do, but he was that type of man. He said he could do some good for other people, and that's what he died doing. says Betty Stocker.
Despite the passing decades, Stocker will never forget her late husband, Navy Lieutenant George Herlong. "He volunteered for this mission for a man whose wife was having a baby, and they flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico. And from there, they flew into Hurricane Janet," she says.
Herlong was the co-pilot aboard a P2V storm chaser. A ham radio operator heard its mayday that fateful day, and immediately relayed it to the Navy. "When I saw those Navy men come to my door, I knew he was dead. They searched for eleven days for them and never found a sign of the airplane or of any person. They got sucked down into a down draft," says Stocker.
Sad irony was born out of Herlong's death. The daughter he never met still keeps in touch with the new father who was supposed to be on that plane. "He was just so tickled that I was pregnant and going to have another baby, and then he didn't get to see her. And she never saw her father. Her son looks just like him," says Stocker.
That's the legacy of a man who can't be replaced by another, but a new love did offer Stocker closure from her first love. "For years and years I dreamed that someone would call me and tell me that he was in Alaska or he was in Hawaii and I could fly. Just as I got to him I'd wake up. But since I married my husband, I don't dream those dreams anymore," says Stocker.
George Herlong was killed along with 10 other crew members. He was 24 years old.