Martha Kasler, Col Kasler's ultimate wingman
On August 8, 1966 life for the Kaslers as they knew it, ended when Colonel Kasler was shot down over North Vietnam while trying to rescue his wingman whose plane had crashed under enemy fire. A bride of the fifties, Martha Kasler suddenly found herself alone and a single parent of three teenage children. She wondered what her beloved Jim was enduring.
Martha said in a recent interview, "The night Jim got shot down, the twins were staying at Jim's parents overnight. They'd come and gotten them so they got on the phone and were crying, and I said, 'Settle down. You know dad is going to escape, and he's going to be home. Don't worry about it.' I really, truly thought that. I did not know the extent of his injuries."
Martha is small in stature but big on inner strength! She overcame being a bride of the fifties and took charge in her new role as Head of the Household. She also became active with other POW wives who were trying to involve the US government with improving prisoner conditions and securing their release.
Arriving at Wright Patterson AFB on March 8, 1973, Colonel Kasler was the first POW off the plane. He spoke briefly into the microphone while Martha and the children waited with a crowd of 600. When he spoke his last words, they broke from the crowd running toward him.
A reporter snapped this photo which is framed and hangs in their home. The children were 13 and 15 when Jim left for Vietnam. The twins were now 20 years old and their oldest daughter was a college graduate and married. Martha is the one wearing the dress.
When Perry and I were doing research for the biography, "Tempered Steel", I watched the news video of the speech and reunion several times. Each time I watched it tears of sadness and joy rolled down my cheeks!