Oklahoma Vietnam Veterans Use Helicopter For Reunion

Saturday, October 5th 2013, 11:24 pm
By: News On 6

As high-octane fuel floods into the engine, so do memories of war into the minds of these Marines.

"Come roaring in, put that tail wheel down, kick out the troops and get back off in about 15-20 seconds," Bill said.

"With a lot of the bad memories are the good memories, when guys were together," retired Cpl. Joe Vaughan said.

Mechanics, pilots, gunners, all 60 some of these veterans share a passion for the UH-34D helicopter.

It's a hand-me-down from the Korean War that not only carried wounded and supplies but many of these men's lives.

"Wherever it went, wherever it flew, you went with it," veteran Marin Poleski said. "I have not been up in a UH-34D since I got out of the service."

They gathered at a small hangar for a flying memorial to their comrades who never came home.

Many of these men are seeing their brothers for the first time in decades, and it had been just as long since they were in the air.

"It's why we fly the aircraft, it's why their names are on the wall, so they'll never be forgotten," retired Sgt. Gary Doss said.

It's not just remembering the smell of the exhaust, the fear of going into battle, or the adrenaline rush of going 100 miles per hour just feet above the tree tops. It's about reuniting with the men who had their backs during the most difficult times of the Vietnam War.

"Because we're only one generation away from losing all our history," Doss said.

"This might be our last reunion because of the age of our participants," Vaughan said.

This "dog" as these Marines call it, may look pristine now, but during the height of the Vietnam War, it had to be patched more than 50 times for bullet holes. It even lost the tail rotor once to an RPG.

"It could take several hits, you could actually shoot out a couple of cylinders and it would still get you back," Martin said.

These men will be the first to tell you they're feeding a hunger by flying today.

"Isn't that something? It will get your blood boiling," retired Maj. Gen. Bill Gosnell said.

In the case of Gosnell, it's the rush of being back in the pilot's seat for the first time in 40 years.

"It's like riding a bicycle, it came back pretty fast," he said.