• September 30, 2014

Heights veteran thanks 21st Cav for special experience with Hueys

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Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012 4:30 am

To the Editor:

Rain and humidity soaked my clothes as I walked toward the hangar, reminding me that it was the beginning of the rainy season in Chu Lai. It would soon turn cold in Vietnam. Our helicopters sat out in revetments exposed to sun, salt, rain, sand, lightning and incoming artillery or rocket fire. Despite all this, most of them cranked up when needed and flew us into combat and usually brought us home. They have an unforgettable rotor sound, “whop, whop, whop,” that most Vietnam veterans remember fondly.

Rain and humidity again soaked my clothes as I walked toward the hangar last Saturday morning, reminding me that it was the final farewell mission for the last three UH-1 Huey helicopters remaining on Fort Hood.

The rain would hide my tears as I joined with other old soldiers who came to pay our respects to a dear friend. It was a bittersweet day for most of us. We had at least 40 years of memories attached to Bell UH-1 helicopters. I am not sure who loved them the most, the men who flew them and maintained them, or the men who rode on them into and out of the killing fields of Vietnam.

The 21st Cavalry Brigade did a grand job of planning, organizing and executing this Huey Farewell Ceremony. They offered commemorative flights for former crew members and soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Despite the morning rain, these were accomplished safely, and were deeply appreciated by those who participated on the rides. A static display in the early afternoon allowed for many friendships to be rekindled between retired soldiers in the Fort Hood area and new friendship between retired and active-duty soldiers.

We regrouped in dry clothes Saturday evening at the Phantom Warrior Club on Fort Hood to hear Col. Neil S. Hersey, 21st Cavalry Brigade commander, speak of the Huey’s unique and honorable history of service. Col. Hersey was followed by retired Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, who gave his remembrances of the Huey’s role in combat in Vietnam. He compared the Huey’s long and distinguished service history to that of the B-52 bomber, another Vietnam vintage aircraft still in service today.

All in all, it was a very proud day for us Vietnam veterans and our younger brothers and sisters on active duty. It was a fitting tribute to the venerable UH-1 Huey helicopter with the unforgettable rotor sound of “whop-whop-whop”…

George G. Van Riper

Harker Heights

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