Not much time elapsed before Vietnam vet Larry Whitman heard that a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter would be touching down at Bowling Green, Kentucky.
When he heard it was coming, he was waiting for it, said Whitman.
The Huey was brought to Bowling Green by Aviation Heritage Park, as a method to raise the money needed to secure a place for their own helicopter among the planes in the park.
The Huey is currently in Tucson, Arizona. It’ll remain there until the park generates the $60,000 required to have it restored and moved across the country.
Whitman cheerfully made the requested $75 donation to have a ride.
Huey pilot Robert Curtis told WBKO that witnessing the excitement on the faces of his fellow veterans as they approached the helicopter was what motivated the 1998 Foxtrot team to assist in making the flights possible.
It means a lot. It is a symbol of the Vietnam War, he explained. Every time he sat in the pilot’s seat, the sights and sounds of the war came back. It brings back past of 45 years vividly. He learned to fly Hueys when he was 20-years-old.
Getting a helicopter like that airborne today costs, at minimum $800 an hour; Curtis encourages people to donate money to concerns such as Aviation Heritage Park to assist them in keeping them in the sky, WBKO reported.
While for some veterans, it brings them peace of mind viewing the plane in new surroundings, Whitman said, for him, it was more about the positive memories.
He thinks he’s had closure, but this memory is one of his favourites.
Curtis is reminded, when looking at people like Whitman, of the immense sacrifices each of them made, and the importance of using aircraft such as the Huey to teach future generations.
Veterans are aging. Thanking them for their contribution isn’t sufficient, he explained. People have to appreciate the experience they went through.