BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - By Donna McCollum - email
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - For a lot of war veterans, the Huey helicopter is music to their ears.
"Bringing this helicopter in points out what the purpose of this day is all about," said Michael Bishop, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America-Pineywoods Chapter 931.
Retired Vietnam War veteran Ray Alanez is both happy and sad. The aircraft saved his life that changed in a flash at age 22. At age 65, Alanez is reluctant to talk about it.
"I can't," Alanez said.
"He was caught up in a big fire fight and everybody was killed, as I understand it, but him," said Herman Gipson, a retired U.S. Army major. "And he was wounded severely. His legs blowed off. And they finally got to him, got a chopper to pick him up and evacuate him back to the hospital."
Bruce Hendry holds the step to the Huey he flew in Vietnam. The former medivac pilot helped save many lives.
"If a soldier was on the ground somewhere, it was your job to fly in and get him," Hendry said.
The Huey also delivered supplies. It was the workhorse of Vietnam, like Preston Mosby Jr., a retired supply clerk who flew long hours in a Huey.
"There was sometimes 2 or 3 of us and we had the equipment here and a lot of times we couldn't land," Mosby said. "We had to sort of drop it out and we did that every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day for a whole year."
This Huey will be retired in two years. A disappearing breed like the men and women it served. The gratitude remains, but it's perhaps long overdue.
The Vietnam Veterans of America-Pineywoods Chapter 931, vows no returning veteran is ever forgotten.
Their allegiance was symbolized by a missing man table ceremony held a couple of hours after the Huey landed. Each branch of the military is represented in the honor.