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True Soldier Stories

"Courage is the ability to move; when all around you are frozen in fear
and no one would blame you if you did nothing at all." Capt. Click. Phx. PD

My Name is Joanna Hobart

       "I have a profound respect for those men, who, far from home,
                   sometimes in peril of their lives, help to rescue our heritage forests.
             So, Monday the 6th of September 2000, carrying out his mission,
                     Ted made his way to the fire to make his drops in an inaccessible area."
                                                                       Serge Portellano

My husband, Ted Hobart is a retired Major in the United States Marine Corp. There he flew the Hercules C-130 for Uncle Sam. After he retired and because of his skills, since 1998 Ted has been the commander of the water bomber Hercules C-130 #82. He has flown out of Marignane, France. The year 2000, was the second summer that Ted and I were in France. Ted was working as an aerial firefighter. He was one of two American captains there at the time. There were two crews, each one consisting of the captain, a French co-pilot, a flight engineer and a mechanic. The French government had contracted the plane every year for several years to help in fighting forest fires.

The morning of September 6th, 2000 was not much different from any other morning. Ted's crew, which consisted of himself as captain, Paul Trinque, co-pilot, Joe Williams, flight engineer, and Ted Meyer, mechanic, had been called out a little earlier than usual to fight a fire about 150 miles north of St. Victoret, where we were staying. St. Victoret is just a few miles from the port city of Marseilles.

          At about 1100 am, Philippe Soules, the co-pilot from the other crew
                                                came to the door of my room.
                      Ted's plane had crashed into the side of the mountain.
                                    The only information he had other than that
                                                       ...was that two of the crew had not survived.

The other two were in critical condition, but he did not know at that point who had survived and who had not. Ted's sister, Kathy Kilcrease, was visiting us at the time. Besides the fact that she was a great comfort to me, she could speak some Spanish and her skills came in very handy in the following days. She is also the only other LDS member in either Ted's or my family.

                                           Without the other realizing it,
                              Kathy and I both slipped off for a few minutes
                                                  of very fervent prayer for all those involved.

We both had a very peaceful feeling that everything would be OK. I think that helped us in trying to comfort Mary, the wife of Paul and Charlene, the fiancÚ of Ted. About an hour later we heard that Paul and Joe had been killed in the crash and that both Ted's had survived, but were in critical condition. They had both been flown to a hospital in Valence. Later that day, Ted Meyer was flown to Marseilles to be in the hospital there. My Ted was admitted to Centre Hospitalier in Valence. We still had no real word on the condition of the survivors except that Ted (Hobart) was in surgery.

I needed to be in Valence, but at the time there was a gas strike in France and gasoline was in very short supply. We waited through the afternoon as the government was trying to find transportation for us. Members of the ward in Vitrolles, Isabelle Gaston, the bishop's wife and Patricia and Serge Portellano came and sat with us during the afternoon as we waited for more news. While they were there, Serge gave Kathy and I each an anointed blessing. We were blessed with the strength to cope with whatever might lie ahead.

                 The evening news came on about 6 pm
                           and we saw our first pictures of the crash site.
         There was nothing left of the plane! Pieces of it were scattered everywhere
             and nothing was recognizable. At that point we began to talk about miracles.
                    How could anyone have survived a crash of that magnitude?

Shortly thereafter we were informed that the government was going to fly Kathy and I to Valence in one of their private planes because we couldn't get there by car. We were met at the airport by the bishop, Serge Gaston, Serge Portellano, two of the missionaires from the ward, Elder Roberts, from England and Elder Borneman from Farmington, Utah and Jacques Canovas, Elder's Quorum President of our ward, the Vitrolles Ward. Jacques is a French Goverment Policeman and Serge Portellano who is currently the bishop of that ward, is a French Government Fireman. Jacques, who was working at the airport in his official capacity escorted us across the tarmac to the waiting plane. As this is terrorist territory, security is very tight. Normally we would have had to relinquish our passports to even get on the airport at any place other than the terminal.

When we landed at the airport in Valence about 9 pm, there was a fireman there to meet us and drive us to the hospital. He spoke no English, but did speak Spanish, so Kathy was able to communicate with him. At the hospital, we found a nurse who spoke some Spanish, so Kathy was able to find out where we were to go. It seems everyone knew about the American pilot.

When we arrived at the Intensive Care Unit (called Reanimation in France), we found out that Ted was still in surgery and not expected to be out for several hours. It turns out he was in surgery about 14 hours that first day. We ended up sleeping on chairs in ICU. Ted came out of surgery about 2 am. He was unconscious and on a respirator. There were tubes coming out of almost every orifice in his body as well as tubes draining blood from the many cuts on his legs and head.

                             His body was swollen, his head in particular
           being almost twice its normal size. His head was bandaged,
                                  but the massive cuts on the left side of his face could be seen.
                  His eyes were black and blue and swollen to the size of baseballs.

The nurses had very limited English and the doctor was not there, so it wasn't until the following day that we found out the extent of his injuries. Dr. LaFarge was Ted's attending physician and he spoke some English. Ted had massive cuts on the left side of his face and trauma to his head, but as far as they could tell, no brain damage. His left eye socket was crushed and had to be rebuilt using titanium plates, but miraculously there was no permanent damage to his eye. His left ear was almost torn off. His right ankle was crushed and the bone to his lower leg was broken. They had to put pins in the fibula near the ankle to hold the bones together. He had five broken ribs on his left side and one broken rib on the right and both lungs had been punctured, but he had no other internal injuries. His arms and legs were black from bruises and he had massive cuts on his legs and smaller ones on his arms. Dr. LaFarge explained that he wanted to keep Ted on morphine and unconscious for a few days because he didn't think he would be able to stand the pain otherwise. Considering the severity of the crash, not only was it amazing that he was still alive, but it was also amazing that he had no severe internal injuries.

           Kathy and I noticed that there were no bruises or cuts on his chest.
                  We then looked at his legs and arms and noticed that the bruises and cuts
                                                      stopped where his garments started.
                            We stood there and cried as we realized what we were seeing. 

We were concerned because we wanted Ted to have a Priesthood blessing. I wanted someone from the Vitrolles ward, but considering the gas shortage, I didn't know if that were possible. We would have to research this. That night as we were eating dinner at the hotel, I got a phone call from Jacques, the Elders's Quorum President from the Vitrolles ward. Since Jacques speaks almost no English, but is fluent in Spanish, I handed the phone to Kathy. She explained that we wanted Ted to have a Priesthood blessing. He told her that he, Serge Portellano and the bishop, Serge Gaston, were willing to come if they could get the gas. The bishop was in Paris until Saturday but he and Serge Portellano could come on Friday if we wanted. Since the bishop spoke very good English (having served his mission in Mesa, Arizona), I decided we would wait till Saturday. The arrangements were made. We now had to wait.

                               When we returned to the table, Kathy commented
                   that she had understood every word that had been spoken.
         Her Spanish is rusty and she can usually pick up the gist of conversation,
                but nothing more. She talked with Jacques many times after that
                                      but never again could understand everything being said.

Serge Gaston, Serge Portellano and Jacques Canovas came to Valence on Saturday, the 9th of September to give Ted a blessing. None of their cars had enough gas to make the trip, so they rented a car with half a tank of gas and also brought along an extra gallon that Jacques had hoarded for the trip. Kathy and I met them at the entrance to the hospital about 1 pm. Bishop Gaston did the anointing and the blessing. Because of Ted's severe head injuries, he did not touch his head. Serge and Jacques stood on either side of him with one of their hands on the bishop's shoulder and the other resting on the bishop's hands.

                       The blessing that was given was beautiful.
           He was told that the Lord loved him very much and that all the elements
                                in his body would work together for a quick recovery.
               He would be healed and not only would he walk again, but he would run.

He was also told that he had a great mission yet to accomplish and that he would stand as an example of a miracle to all those around him and to share the miracle whenever possible. The sprit in the room was VERY strong. While there, Bishop Gaston made a phone call to the bishop of the branch in Valence. Bishop Danguy came to the hospital and we made arrangements with him to attend church in Valence the next day.

Kathy and I decided we needed to hand out Books of Mormon to some of those people we had come in contact with. Kathy got in touch with the missionaries in Valence, Elder Gray from Kaysville, Utah and Elder Goates from Canada. They brought several books, and along with the ward mission leader, they translated the message that Kathy had written into French. Before we left Valence, we gave the books to several people at the hospital and the hotel.

After the doctor brought Ted out of his state of unconsciousness, we noticed a great improvement in Ted's condition. The following Wednesday (8 days after the crash), Kathy had left the room for a while and Ted had two visitors.

              Ted had told me that a Nephite warrior had come and stood
                         at the foot of the bed for a while. He also said that Paul, the co-pilot
                   who had died in the crash, had also come and stood beside the bed.
       In both cases, I got the distinct feeling that they did indeed come to visit.

Ted and Paul had been very close and it was quite distressing to lose him. Two days after Ted's visitors, he was well enough to be transferred to St. Marguerite's Hospital in Marseilles. There was not enough room in the helicopter for Kathy and I so we took the train. A very pleasant experience. We weren't sure how we were going to get from the train station to the hospital, but we thought we could "wing it". When we arrived at Marseilles, lo and behold, Jacques Canovas was there to meet us. Since we hadn't told him we were coming in, we had no idea how he found out. As it turned out, the hospital was some distance away. If we had been able to get there, I'm not sure we could have found out where Ted had been transferred. The Lord had blessed us again! We arrived at the hospital and were also able to visit with Ted Meyer. He was also making a good recovery.

               After details of the accident started coming out,
                              we noted that there were several more miracles that occurred.

The plane went down in the mountains near the little village of Burzet. The mayor was one of the first on the scene and he just happened to be a doctor. This is very significant, because both Ted's had two punctured lungs each. They couldn't have lived long without quick medical intervention. When the plane crashed, it went up in a ball of fire. Yet no one had any burns. They also said that my Ted was surrounded by fire, but someone carried him to safety. We found out later that it was the fire captain who carried him out. He had to be a big man because Ted is a big man. Lastly, Ted had to be revived three times between the crash site and the hospital. Three times his system shut down yet every time they were able to bring him back.

Ted remained in the hospital a total of two weeks. We returned to the United States on October 14th. Because the doctors in France were so busy with the enormity of Ted's injuries, the doctors here found some injuries the French doctors either did not find or did not worry about. To the American doctor's amazement, most of these injuries have healed on their own. He's had ten surgeries on his facial injuries and will have at least one more. His recovery and the quickness of his recovery was amazing. He went from bed-bound to wheelchair bound and in four months he was walking with the aid of crutches. Today other than the few [manly looking] scars to the left side of his face, you would never know he had survived a C-130 crash into the side of a mountain.

                This trip to France was one of the lowest points in my life,
                              but yet one of the most spiritually uplifting I have ever had.
           I couldn't believe all the blessings and miracles that I was seeing.
                        I don't know what Ted and I have done to deserve
                                                        everything the Lord has done for us.

I do know one thing. The Lord is merciful, He is kind, He is loving. This chapter in my life has made me a different person. I look at things a lot different than I used to.

                   I couldn't have survived this without my profound faith
                                    in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

                                                               Joanna Hobart

                         "I would like to give testimony that, in His great mercy,
                                        the Lord God all powerful protects all His sons
                 and reinforces our testimony of the necessity of always being dignified
                                                        when wearing the clothing of the temple,
                             because they have put in on like a shield."
                                                      Serge Portellano, Bishop
                                                              and Fireman in France


Editors note:

Of all the things Ted is, he is also an exceptional and faithful home teacher. Always doing his home teaching to his families and looking out for their needs. He was driving down the road many years ago, behind a truck, when an old computer fell, bounced and skidded to the side of the road in front of him. Ted stopped and picked it up. Saw the owners sticker on it, took it home and called the owner. They didn't want it, it was too old. They were discarding it. He checked it out and found it to be still functional. Missing a top, some keys and bearing some good scrapes and gouges in remaining parts of the shell, but still functional. He fixed it and then felt impressed to give it to one of his home teaching families. He told them he felt impressed to give it to them and that it was for the express purpose of them beginning their family history work.

He taught them how to use a computer and kept it in repair while they used it. That family, who had never owned a computer before and knew not how to use one, entered over 625 names into their family history file. Out of that 625 people, they were able to do 128 temple ordinances for their family ancestors before the computer finally gave up the ghost. That was the beginning of what is now over 10,000 family names in their family history file. I know because Julie and I were that family. Ted was our home teacher. And Joanna has spent hundreds of hours helping us put together the book, Think About it... Why Should I be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Hobart's are wonderful people, wonderful missionaries and wonderful friends. It is with great honor that I am allowed to share their story with you here on:



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Thank you and God bless,


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