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Sisters Marked Each Day with Dad Away at War

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Sisters Eileen Tarr (left) and Ellen Hess

Sisters Eileen Tarr (left) and Ellen Hess were in grade school when their father left for the Vietnam War. StoryCorps hide caption

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James Dowling was a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army for 25 years. He fought in World War II and in the Korean War. In 1966, he was sent to Vietnam for a one-year tour, leaving behind his wife, and three daughters who were in elementary school at the time.

Two of his daughters, Ellen Hess and Eileen Tarr, still remember the day their father left for war.

"The day that we put him on the plane at the Pittsburgh airport was one of the saddest days of my life," Tarr recalls. She was just 9 years old at the time, and remembers that her older sister, Ellen, was so depressed, she couldn't go back to school for the afternoon.

The sisters knew their father would be gone for one year, so they marked time with a string of 365 paper clips. Each day, their mother, Mary, removed a paper clip as a visible reminder that her husband would one day return home.

James Dowling survived the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery.

Produced for 'Morning Edition' by Michael Garofalo. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.



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