Talk about a learning experience! On August 12 thru 14, 2022, the American Huey 369 Foundation held its annual gathering in Peru, Indiana. I was so pleased to attend this gathering with our elder sister, Gabrielle.
When we arrived Thursday to set up our Honor in the Air exhibit, we were given a personal tour of the awesome new museum facilities by the founder, John Walker. This beautiful building is well under construction on spacious park-like ground across the road from their old site in a hanger on the Grissom Airbase. In addition, John graciously took time away from his busy preparations to share the stories of the group's four restored Vietnam era helicopters: a Huey medevac chopper, a gunship, a slick, and an observation helicopter. The histories and restoration of these storied aircraft is a tale of commitment, determination, dogged effort, and an enormous expenditure of energy, skill, and money... all donated by dedicated American Huey members. To see them flying after decades of decay and neglect was inspirational.
To see these machines in action during Saturday's reenactment of a battle and rescue mission was something neither Gabrielle nor I will ever forget. The rattle of gunfire, the iconic sound of the whining engines and thumping rotors multiplied by four, the wash of dust and wind, the colored smoke from flares, the touchdown of the skids as the medevac swooped in and retrieved the 'wounded' while the slick inserted more 'troops' and the gunship protected them all gave us both a much better insight into the daily jobs performed by all those who fought and flew in that costly war. Getting to fly in one of these magnificent machines Saturday afternoon was a bonus that added even more excitement to the whole experience.
We met, as usual, so many fascinating Veterans and others, all with stories of their own to tell. It's always one of the best things about attending events like this. We got to share our plan to produce a documentary that does justice to the service of Vietnam Veterans like Captain Scott Alwin and those he flew with, all while hearing from those touched by service like his, perhaps their own or maybe someone else close to them. It reinforces the importance of our mission to bring to the public another story that might promote more understanding, respect, and empathy for the Veterans in our midst.
I want to ad a special thanks to Phil Marshall for the work he is doing researching and recording specific mission histories (DMZ Dustoff Vietnam, etc) and especially to Jim Crigler, a genuine "big-family-brother-under-the-skin" as well as a superb fellow author (Mission of Honor) and an insightful and generous supporter of our project.
And again, thanks to all the American Huey members who tr4uly comprehend how important it is to revere and respect, to protect and preserve the stories that help present day citizens understand the valor and gallantry of those who fought and often died for our nation's ideals.
For more information about or to donate to our documentary project, go to www.HonorInTheAir.com.