Retired Col. Otis Evans remembers the very long and harrowing day of Dec. 1, 1968, like it was yesterday. The day began at 4:30 a.m. with a mission to extract a wounded soldier from Vietnam’s trenches.
“We received fire, but it didn’t disable the aircraft. We tried another route in and it was the worst choice we could have made,” he said. His rescue mission suffered a barrage of enemy fire, destroying the tail rotor system of his helicopter and causing the chopper to crash.
Not willing to abandon their mission, Evans and his crew loaded up another helicopter and made another attempt to that same location later in the evening when there was very little action.
Unfortunately, the soldier they were sent to retrieve was dead.
“Regardless, we were still bound and determined to bring the soldier out,” Evans said.
After an honorable 27-year career in the U.S. Army, Evans continues his lifelong motto of “service above self” as a Harker Heights Rotarian.
“With a little arm twisting from Ed Mullens and knowing that this club supported my belief was the reason I joined,” said Evans, who has been a member for three years. The highlight of Evans’ military service was his 12-year stint as a medical evacuation helicopter pilot with the 101st Aviation Brigade during the Vietnam War. When he was stationed at Fort Hood as a motor officer, orders arrived to report to Fort Walters in Mineral Wells for primary helicopter training.
“Now reality strikes me and I understand the responsibility, danger, commitment and risk I am about to face,” he said recently, recalling his military experiences.
Within a year he was in Vietnam flying rescue missions.
“I stopped worrying about whether I would survive or not. I told myself to follow the leadership of my supervisors, remember all the things I can, follow the rules and fly as good as I can,” Evans said.
Evans’ bravery as a medevac pilot and military leader led him to receive an invitation to represent the Army at the dedication ceremony of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Capitol in Austin.
“I’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with my military comrades from the Navy, Marines and Air Force and assisting them in unveiling the monument,” Evans said.
Gov. Rick Perry will accept the monument 41 years to the day after the last American combat troops left Vietnam and nine years after the effort got underway to build it.
More than 3,000 Vietnam veterans and family members from across the state are expected to attend the event.
A special tribute will be offered to the Texans who died or are unaccounted for in Vietnam through a “Welcome Fair” including Vietnam War equipment displays and an exhibition of 3,417 personalized dog tags remembering the lost.
The event is free and open to the public.