One brave woman -
The below account is based on my conversations with Mike's mom, Mrs. Pat Echanis, and her letter to a "Mr. Kozac" upon her return from Managua, Nicaragua, in late October 1978.
You will not find this encounter with MDE's parents in Mr. O'Neal's book "American Warrior" in which he offers he never left a fallen comrade behind per the Ranger Creed in direct reference to Mike, Chuck or Bobby (Page 178).
The creed also includes a fallen comrade's family.
According to Pat, Susie Sanders (Chuck Sanders' widow) and the Echanis Family had become close in a very short period of time after MDE and Chuck's deaths.
Susie called Pat and shared that Gary O'Neal had spoken to her (Gary and Chuck were friends and had served on the same SCUBA team at 5th Group together prior to both joining Mike in Nicaragua). O'Neal offered he was returning to Nicaragua to assume "Mike's contracts" and would also try to recover the insurance money rumored to be due the families of all three Americans killed on General Alegrett's Aero Commander 114-A.
Susie offered O'Neal asked her not to share this information with the Echanis'. However, Susie did. She remained in touch with both the Echanis and Sanders families for some years until letting them know she needed to move on with her life. They understood.
At about the same time as Susie's call Mrs. Alegrett contacted Pat from Managua. Pat later wrote "We have been to Nicaragua by request of Mrs. Alegrett. She asked that we come and settle our son's affairs. The insurance on the plane, also."
The call from Mrs. Alegrett was made on October 26, 1978.
The U.S. State Department approved their visit almost immediately and visas were issued.
Pat, Mike's dad (Frank) and their family attorney arrived in Managua on October 30th.
Mrs. Alegrett did not meet them at the airport as originally planned. The city was in chaos as fighting between Somoza's forces and the Sandinistas was fierce. The three would later meet with Mrs. Alegrett's attorney, Dr. Teojer (sp?), at the U.S. Embassy to discuss the insurance money issue. Two meetings were held. No insurance payment was ever made to the family.
They did have the opportunity to meet with then President Somoza. Again, according to Pat's letter to Mr. Kozac, "Pres Somoza asked to see us which we did - very nice...no assistance".
It was when they visited with Somoza they ran into O'Neal at the Presidential Offices. "We saw Gary O'Neal as he came out of a room," Pat told me. "He looked at us and was clearly shocked. I know he never expected to see us again after the funerals."
Pat recounts O'Neal talking briefly with them. He offered to take them up to where Mike had lived but they were due to meet Somoza. They declined. "That's the last we saw of O'Neal while we were there."
With reservations orginally made at the Intercontential Hotel in Managua the party was directed by a well-wisher at the airport to another hotel in town. That person felt the original hotel was too dangerous a place to be staying for three Americans at that time. He provided them with his car and they were taken to a less visible hotel in the city.
"I was never afraid while we were there, not once!" Pat told me.
One can see where, in part, MDE got his fearlessness
The party registered under their attorney's name. It would prove a very wise move.
The Echanis' remained in Managua until November 2nd. During that time they visited a woman who Mike had told them about, a Dutch gal, who warned them to leave Nicaragua immediately given the danger they were in.
They also visited the national bank where they believed MDE may have kept an account. They were given the "royal run-around". Again, nothing came of their efforts.
"The embassy was sure [the Nicaraguans] would help us with our son's affairs - I believe they had all helped themselves to everything belonging to to our son personal and financial" she wrote later.
Indeed, Mike's personal effects were rummaged through at the trailer he lived in by persons unknown. Frank Jr, one of Mike's two brothers, told me he recognized items of Mike's clothing being worn by some of those Expat Americans who'd come to Ontario from Managua for the funeral services. It infuriated him.
All of MDE's vehicles disappeared as well as his weapons. The trailer was essentially looted.
When the Echanis' left for the airport they were handed a box of what was claimed to be Mike's personal effects.
Most of what was in the box belonged to Joe Camp, a retired Navy SEAL working for Mike who disappeared on the streets of Managua several months earlier. Frank gave the box to their taxi driver and told him he could have whatever was in it. He was furious at the insult to their intelligence by whomever had put the box together.
Note: Items of Mike's later ended up in Texas with Joe Camp's widow. They were sent to her and offered to be her husband's. She had a letter from Mike to Joe when Mike recruited him and sent all she had back to the family. I have read the letter. Mrs. Camp was likewise angry at the insult to her and her husband's memory.
The overall lack of help was dismaying.
"The embassy was most surprised we did not receive more assistance. But what can you do?," Pat wrote. "You don't demand when you are in another country - they can do as they wish, and you have no recourse."
As it turned out the Sandinistas were looking for the trio.
Again, according to Pat after they'd returned safely home.
"In yesterday's mail I received a letter and news clipping from the embassy in Managua. The opposition was looking for us at all the hotels, but could not find us registered. We did not use our name but the name of our attorney. The paper came out the afternoon we left, November 2nd. We were happy to be home."
Mike's parents had been traveling throughout Managua with no security presence provided by either the U.S. embassy, Gary O'Neal or President Somoza via his executive assistant Colonel Adonis Porras.
Truly God was watching over them.