Rescue in the Urals

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Orphanage in Orenburg, Russia

Thirteen years ago I wrote a piece for our subscriptions travel newsletter, Gemütlichkeit, about an adoption trip to Russia. It was a fascinating, heart-warming story but since it didn't really fit our newsletter content, it never saw the light of day. Today, December 21, 2012, for complicated, political reasons, Russian president Vladimir Putin is in the process of pushing through a law that would prohibit Americans from adopting Russian babies. Given that context, perhaps you'll be interested in this quasi travel story.

Summer, 1999—A few weeks ago, Nancy Bestor, wife of son Bob, and mother of our two terrific granddaughters, agreed to accompany her good friend Sally (not her real name) on a trip to Russia. A single woman bent on adopting a Russian baby, Sally needed help and moral support. What with Russian politics and bureaucracy, the adoption was on and off at least half a dozen times. In late May it seemed definitely off. Vladimir Putin, the new Russian President, was scrapping the program. Sally, who had known the name of her baby for months and had pictures and videotapes of her, was running on emotional empty and seemed ready to look elsewhere for a baby.

Then came an early morning phone call that changed everything. A Russian court date had been scheduled and Sally and Nancy needed to be in Moscow within 72 hours.

This has nothing to do with travel.

Last week I joined my former classmates from the 1962 University of Idaho Naval Reserve Officer Training Program for a brief reunion. Of the 22 who graduated from the program and were commissioned, 16 attended the reunion. One classmate who joined us became a Marine and in Vietnam was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with “V,” and a Purple Heart with Gold Star. Sad to say, two of our 22 have died.

The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the 50 years since our graduation and commissioning, but also to honor our former Naval Science instructor and mentor, Navy Captain Donald S. Campbell, an extraordinary leader and one hell of a human being. We, his former students, have created a small scholarship that each year is awarded to the University of Idaho NROTC student who best exemplifies Capt. Campbell's leadership qualities. This year, with Don's wife, Phyllis Campbell, and his children Brad, Casey and Kim, we returned to the University for the presentation of this year's award.