Dear Mr. Lutrell and Mr. Rutherford:
I am a relatively new listener, and absolutely astonished by the accounts of so many ordinary people who have, and continue to perform, such extraordinary tasks.
As I’ve listened to all of your podcasts, repeatedly, I know that you ask for us to send in our “never quit stories”.
I always felt that my story pales in comparison to those I’ve heard; however, after hearing so many of your guests say their greatest accomplishment is their children, and after watching Marcus’ video on Father’s Day, I felt it was my duty to share my story.
I know that there are other dads out there that may be experiencing what I, as a parent, was subjected to.
On Oct 23, 1987, I was married to the mother of my 3 and 5 year old sons.
I was then working as a police Sergeant for the Miami Dade Police Department; in the liberty city area, essentially the inner city of Miami, an area plagued by high crime and riots.
On that particular day, my (then) wife alluded that she and her mother, were taking our two sons to Marco Island for the weekend.
I had to work, so I thought it would be okay for them to go. I figured we’d celebrate my son’s 3rd birthday on Sunday, just a couple of days after they returned and I would be off from work.
On Sunday, they did not return and I became alarmed; thinking the worst had happened across the dangerous Alligator Alley, from the west coast, back to south Florida.
I called local police agencies and hospitals in my desperate attempt to find them.
I then called my (then) father in law, who lived and worked near our home.
To my utter surprise, he advised me that my wife took my children to Israel, where my wife was born, to give them a better life. He then told me if I try to look for them, he would have me killed.
I never in my life experienced such a range of emotions, the loss and desire to hold my boys, to an intense sense of rage; where I later even took steps towards wanting to kill the man that stood before me and was involved in the taking of my boys.
I soon learned that incidents such as these are common and called; International Parental Abductions.
As a police officer I never handled one.
As a father, I wasn’t going to stand for becoming a statistic of a parent that was betrayed and deprived of the right to love and raise my children. I was not going to be a deadbeat dad, much like the one who fathered me.
I began my journey of finding them and getting my boys back.
I also knew that if I killed my father in law, it would only hinder my quest to find and raise them; even though I had such evil intent in my heart. I had to rely on my morale compass.
My boys and I were a team: a team that I could not deprive them of their right; the right to have their dad. I was never going to quit looking for them and being a part of their lives.
After a few weeks since they went missing, I received a letter addressed to my father, sent from my wife and postmarked from Israel. I felt it was a clue.
I then contacted the Israeli Consulate. Even back in 1987, the Israeli Customs and Immigration Service, kept meticulous records of who entered their sovereign nation. There was no record of my wife, kids and their grandmother of entering Israel. I was baffled, but my determination was stoked even more. I then had to use every “tool in my toolkit” to try to find and rescue them. I even contacted a private company in Fayetteville NC, made up of Special Forces; who “extract” abducted children from foreign countries.
During this same time, my best friend’s dad was the administrative judge of Dade County. He knew me since I was a child.
One day, I went to see him at his chambers, where he along with another judge was chatting.
I advised the two judges of my dilemma, in hopes that somehow, through their positions, they could help.
Essentially, they told me to forget about it, I can always remarry and have other children!
I remember saying to myself, “what the fuck?” and stormed out with more determination than ever.
I then learned that because of the different laws of the different countries, one of my only resources was the US State Department.
Each night after my shift, from 6pm – 2 am, provided I wasn’t tied up on a shooting or homicide, I would go home and work on my investigation. My boys were not going to be prevented from growing up without their dad.
Then I had an incredible thought. I felt that God was guiding me, through my faith.
My wife, although born and lived in Israel, also lived in Australia for a few years as a child growing up.
She sometimes talked about a childhood friend, who actually came from Australia to stay with us one summer, upon graduating college.
I searched my memory as well as any shred of paper I could find, abandoned by my wife in my house.
Thankfully, I found her friend’s name and address among a pile of papers. It had her friend’s contact information in Melbourne Australia.
It was a major breakthrough as I could now have the US State Department contact my wife’s friend in Australia to conduct a “check on the welfare”. This was about the only service they could provide in cases of international parental abductions, where the whereabouts of the kidnapping parent was known. I had a hunch that she may be in Australia, not Israel, as there were no records of my family entering Israel. Essentially, she was employing a distractionary-technique.
In police work, when I was an armed robbery detective, I learned a valuable life lesson.
People remember their truths; but they forget their lies.
The US State Department agreed to check with my wife’s childhood friend to see if she may have known the whereabouts of her friend or my boys. I didn’t really care about my wife at that point. How could anybody emotionally and intentionally deprive a child of the love and guidance of a father?
The State Department sent me a correspondence, much like a telegraph. The young woman, friend from Australia, claimed she hadn’t seen my wife in years; since she was a child.
Her response turned out to be an absolute lie! She stayed in my house the summer before!
That was a pivotal moment in my case. Locally, it was legally necessary to file for divorce and custody. My divorce and custody proceedings were well underway; absent my wife.
The State Department than advised me that I would have to retain an attorney in Australia. In their effort to help, they sent me the equivalent of a “phone book” of lawyers in Melbourne.
How did I know who to hire?
I didn’t. Melbourne was a large cosmopolitan city with pages and pages of listed attorneys. I envisioned kangaroos hopping around the street and Koala bears hanging in trees!
I prayed, I cried, I. asked for God’s guidance in this ordeal; so I closed my eyes, pointed in the book and “eenie meenie mynie mo” picked one and contacted a random attorney, from a list of thousands in Melbourne.
At this point, approximately four months had gone by; four months without knowing the whereabouts of my sons. That fueled my quest even more. I was not going to give up on them. Fathers do not give up on their kids!
I spoke to the attorney for quite a few hours on a few occasions. He took my case and hadn’t even charged me a single cent at that point.
Than one day, around three o clock in the morning, after my shift, I received a phone call from the attorney. He told me over the phone to take a seat. I feared the worst; maybe a murder suicide.
If a person doesn’t believe in God, maybe this will convince them, otherwise. I can only explain it through Divine Intervention. It could not be a coincident.
I sat down and the attorney in Melbourne Australia went on to say on that day, he was in family court on an unrelated child support matter for another client. This hearing was being held during the calendar of all the family court cases on that particular date and time of the week; 15607 miles away! At the same precise date and time that my attorney was there, a mother of two boys from Miami, was asking the judge for custody.
The judge asked if she served her husband, as required by law.
Here response was “No”.
At that precise moment in time, 15,607 miles away, my Australian lawyer shot out of his seat, like a Polaris missile: advising the judge that he was representing the father in Miami, of the two children that this woman was asking custody of. The judge immediately admonished her and advised her that she had committed an international parental abduction.
I feel strongly that only God could have arranged the precise timing of both my attorney and my sons’ mother being in court at the exact same time.
The judge entered a “stay order”, preventing her from leaving Australia and seized her, her mother’s and my sons’ passports.
I was elated and had previously advised the attorney in Australia that I would travel there on a moment’s notice, to go to court, to fight for custody of my boys if necessary.
I prepared my “case file” with all the documentation I collected from the onset of the case.
Consequently, I traveled to Australia with my mother; to attend an emergency court hearing and for her to hopefully assist me with the kids.
She had seen me at my worst and wanted to help like any normal mother would.
I also learned that I would be able to see my boys, in a supervised visitation setting, as their mother claimed conflicting false allegations that I was dangerous and abusive.
I shot holes through those allegations as I knew and proved the truth, with documentation that refuted her lies.
On the day of my supervised visitation, I was excited that I was to see my sons after six months.
Little did I know that their mother had fraudulently changed their last name, and instilled a fear in them that I was going to Australia to kill them. Initially they were scared, but in moments, their instilled fear melted from their faces. Even the Australian social worker said that children are better off if they are raised by their “mums”. My urgency to rescue them and raise them intensified.
What kind of mother does this to their own child? I was driven by a sense of good versus evil.
The emergency hearing was held; I was granted custody of my two boys and allowed to return to south Florida with them, to raise them with the love and assistance of my family.
The judges I mentioned earlier were partially right.
I did later re-marry and had 2 more children. My boys grew up with a non-biological mom who later, gave birth to their new baby brother and sister.
My wife of 27 years has been the mother to all four, without a single degree of separation. As to the mother who gave birth to my first boys, she chose to return to Australia and have no contact with our boys. Even after what she had done, I felt it was in the boys’ best interest to have contact with their mom. She chose otherwise.
Just because a woman gives birth, doesn’t make her a mother. Our house is one of love, parenting and guidance.
As I write this account of my greatest never quit story, I am in a commercial airliner, currently flying over the great state of Texas.
To me it is significant; somewhere under our flight path is Marcus Lutrell, Navy Seal and a loving father. He, along with David Rutherford inspired me to pen this letter.
My family is en route to San Diego, for that little boy who was abducted on his third birthday is returning home from deployment. We are en route there for his homecoming. That little boy is now a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, aboard the Carl Vinson, CVN-70. He is married, and owns a home in Jacksonville Fl.
He enlisted in the Navy in 2007 as an AT, finished college and decided to make a career in the Navy. He graduated OCS 04-15 and is now an Aviation Maintenance Division Officer aboard the Carl Vinson.
As to his older brother, he is married with children and is completing medical school. He is entering his residency as an emergency medical doctor.
I am so blessed and eternally proud of the productive men they became.
I am so grateful to God for guiding me; protecting my sons and providing me with the burning quest “To Never Quit”.
For the dads out there in a similar situation, never quit on your children. There is hope.
Looking back, I embrace the trauma and horrific experience of this event. Had it not been for this traumatic event that enabled me to gain custody and raise my boys, they would not have achieved success. Through suffering and pain, comes strength and determination.
I’m not a special person. I’m just a regular dad that had an extraordinary life experience; one that I embraced to achieve my goal.
All of us dads are the “shipmates” of the same crew; Fatherhood.
We must choose to do right by our children in order to forge them into successful and productive members of society.
Gentlemen, God bless you, your families and all the events and people in your lives that enabled you to become the men, husbands, fathers and warriors of our amazing nation.