the Last Huey
Lawrence Castagneto, 17 May 2011
at Ft Rucker upon retirement
of the last Huey
would like to thank MG Crutchfield for allowing me to speak at this event and
try to convey in my own inadequate, meager way, what this aircraft means to me
and so many other Vietnam veterans.
a few facts:
a Vietnam Veteran Army Aviator, I would like to thank everyone for coming to
this special occasion, on this to be honest very sad day, the end of an era. An
era that has spanned over 50 years. The
retirement of this grand old lady “OUR MOTHER” the Huey.
was 48 yrs ago this month that the first Huey arrived in Vietnam with units that
were to become part of the 145th and the 13th Combat Aviation Battalions; both
units assigned here at Ft Rucker today. While in Vietnam, the Huey flew
approximately 7,457,000 combat assault sorties; 3,952,000 attack or gunship
sorties and 3,548,000 cargo supply sorties. That comes to over 15 million
sorties flown over the paddies and jungles of Nam, not to include the millions
of sorties flown all over the world and other combat zones since then what an
amazing journey I am honored and humbled to have been a small part of that
those in the crowd that have had the honor to fly, crew, or ride this
magnificent machine in combat, we are the chosen few, the lucky ones. They
understand what this aircraft means, and how hard it is for me to describe my
feelings about her as a Vietnam combat pilot for she is alive has a life of her
own, and has been a lifelong friend.
do I break down in a few minutes a 42-year love affair, she is as much a part of
me, and to so many others as the blood that flows through our veins. Try to
imagine all those touched over the years by the shadow of her blades.
aircraft can fly overhead and some will look up and some may not; or even
recognize what they see. But, when a Huey flies over, everyone looks up and
everyone knows who she is, young or old all over the world. She connects with all.
those that rode her into combat the sound of those blades causes our heart beat
to rise and breaths to quicken in anticipation of seeing that beautiful machine
fly overhead and the feeling of comfort she brings. No other aircraft in the
history of aviation evokes the emotional response the Huey does combat
veteran’s or not she is recognized all around the world by young and old, she
is the ICON of the Vietnam war, U.S. Army Aviation and the U.S. Army.
five decades of service she carried Army Aviation on her back, from bird dogs
and piston powered helicopters with a secondary support mission, to the force-multiplier combat arm that Army Aviation is today.
the young aviators of today, that are mainly Apache, Blackhawk pilot’s,
etc., that have had a chance to fly her will tell you there is no greater
feeling, honor, or thrill than to be blessed with the opportunity to ride her
through the sky. They may love their Apaches and Blackhawks, but they will say there
is no aircraft like flying the Huey - “It is special.”
are two kinds of helicopter pilots: those that have flown the Huey and those
that wish they could have.
intense feelings generated for this aircraft are not just from the flight crews
but, also from those who rode in back… into
and out of the “devil's caldron. “ As paraphrased here from “Gods own
lunatics,” Joe Galloway’s tribute to the Huey and her flight crews and other
Infantry veterans’ comments:
there anyone here today who does not thrill to the sound of those Huey blades??
That familiar whop-whop-whop is the soundtrack of our war - the lullaby of our
younger days. It is burned in to our brains and our hearts.
those who spent their time in 'Nam as a grunt, know that noise was always a great
comfort. Even today when I hear it, I stop to catch my breath and search the sky for
a glimpse of the mighty eagle.
the pilots and crews of that wonderful machine we loved you, we loved that
matter how bad things were if we called you came down through the hail of green
tracers and other visible signs of a real bad day off to a bad start. I can
still hear the sound of those blades churning the fiery sky. To us you seemed
beyond brave and fearless. Down you would come to us in the middle of battle in
those flimsy thin-skin chariots into the storm of fire and hell. We feared for
you, we were awed by you. We thought of you and that beautiful bird as
“God’s own lunatics” and wondered who are these men and this machine and
where do they come from? They have to be “Gods Angels.”
with that I say to her, that beautiful lady sitting out there, from me and all
my lucky brothers, that were given the honor to serve their country, and the
privilege of flying this great lady in skies of Vietnam - Thank you for the
memories. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for always bringing us home
regardless of how beat up and shot up you were. Thank You!!!
will never be forgotten, we loved you then we love you now and will love you
till our last breath…
as the sun sets today, if you listen quietly and closely you will hear that
faint wop wop wop of our mother speaking to all her children past and present
who rode her into history in a blaze of glory… she will be saying to them:
“I am here; I will always be here with you. I
am at peace and so should you be and so should you be.”
not part of speech, added in respect)
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