Salutes those who gave their lives flying helicopters in Vietnam.
All I can say is, it’s about time.
Last week thousands of Vietnam Veterans wearing hats, vests and jackets with their military unit insignia’s gathered at Arlington National Cemetery along with family members for the unveiling of a special new memorial dedicated to Vietnam Helicopter pilots and crew.
The granite monument, which stands 2 1/2-foot by 2 1/2-foot was surrounded by the ‘audience’ and more people were standing on the hillside looking on at the dedication ceremony. After a bugler played Taps, the sound of chopper blades got louder as 4 UH-1 (Hueys) flew over.
The inscription on the memorial reads, “In honored memory of the helicopter pilots and crewmembers who gave the full measure of devotion to their nation in the Vietnam War, 1961- 1975”
A few years ago I wrote about the amazingly courageous (and probably a little crazy) door gunners of Vietnam. In the article, I mentioned the heavy toll that pilots and crew paid flying in supplies and more importantly, trying to get the wounded and fallen out of heavy combat zones. Helicopter crews accounted for 10% of all combat deaths in Vietnam. Helicopter losses during Lam Son 719 (which only lasted two months) accounted for 10% of all helicopter losses from 1961-1975.
I have had the utmost respect for these ‘angels’ of Nam for a long time. I am so incredibly glad they are finally being recognized.
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association started campaigning for the monument in early 2014. In 2015 they took their case to Arlington’s advisory committee and former Army Secretary John McHugh but McHugh told them that a memorial would take up some of the precious remaining space in the cemetery, which he argued should be prioritized for burials.
In the fall of 2016, they went to Capitol Hill to speak before a House Armed Services subcommittee. It’s pitiful that they had such a battle in the US just for a small memorial, but their dedication to their fallen brothers finally paid off and they were cleared last year to have a small memorial near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., was one of the lawmakers who introduced legislation to establish the monument and he spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony.
“It’s hard to get a memorial in this place, and it should be… But I can’t think of a group more deserving.”
God Bless our Troops, bless our Veterans. They are a special breed and I will always be so grateful for the freedoms they have fought, still fight for and paid dearly for, for many around our world.