As a daily newspaper reporter, I have had the privilege of being included in some very special events. If you asked me if I had ever taken a flight in a Vietnam War era Huey helicopter, I would have said no. That was true, until last week.
Recently, I interviewed Wayne Terry, a Vietnam War Veteran who was a helicopter mechanic and helicopter gunner in Vietnam in the late 1960s, for my book, More to Say from San Francisco, Searching for the 1960s. During our chat, he invited me to an event for Huey Vets, a nonprofit organization preserving Vietnam War history and showing folks what it was really like for our Vietnam Veterans “in country.” The organization provides a platform for the Veterans to tell their stories (very healing for many) and to show folks a refurbished Huey assault helicopter, the type that we often saw on the 6 o’clock news almost every night during the Vietnam War years. According to the official description, this group has created, “a flying museum dedicated to preserving the history of assault helicopter units in Vietnam.”
Here is a video clip from Huey Vets, the 135th Assault Helicopter Company EMU 309, with the Huey landing on the battleship USS Iowa just before the ship was moved to Southern California to become a museum in 2012 –
I attended the Huey Vets event at a hanger at a private airfield that usually houses small, fixed-wing airplanes. The guests got a welcome, an overview of the organization and a safety briefing before being invited to climb into one of the six guest seats for a 20 minute ride. The fully restored, fully operational (except for the guns) assault helicopter took us over the East Bay hills and back to the airfield. I sat right in front of what would have been the gunner’s seat. And for authenticity, my seat was right next to the open door, exactly like they flew these “slicks” in combat.
Huey Vets is a nonprofit organization and they fly to many events all over Northern California. The next open-to-the-public event is Saturday, May 11, at the Hayward Executive Airport. They will not be flying that day but guests are welcome to learn about the helicopter and find out how to support the work of the organization.
For more information and videos, check out www.hueyvets.com