Helicopter Crews To Be Honored At Arlington


A monument to the helicopter crews of the Vietnam War will be placed at Arlington Cemetery, after a long uphill fight by advocates. It’s hard to think of that war without thinking of helicopters, whether your experience of the war was firsthand or from news, documentaries and movies like Apocalypse Now. But when a group of veterans approached Arlington National Cemetery about installing a monument to those crews, they met obstacles. The Army’s Advisory Committee for the cemetery deadlocked 3-to-3 on the proposal in March 2015. John McHugh, then the Army secretary, told Time magazine the monument would take up too much space, which is fast being used up. “The prime directive for the cemetery is to do everything it can not to initiate an action that would displace an otherwise-eligible veteran,” McHugh said. “On a very tough decision, that philosophy and unwritten rule was the determining factor.” The monument occupies about 6 square feet.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association took their case to Congress, and gathered thousands of signatures on petitions asking the government to allow the monument to be installed. “Helicopters played a major role in Vietnam,” the VHPA said in a statement issued on Monday. “It is estimated that about 40,000 served as helicopter pilots during the Vietnam War. This monument honoring the sacrifices of helicopter crews in Vietnam is long overdue and much deserved.” About 5,000 helicopters were flown during that war, according to Time, and 42 percent of them were destroyed by enemy fire, bad weather and other problems. More than 2,000 pilots and 2,700 crewmen and gunners were killed. They helped to rescue more than 90,000 victims of war. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam as an Army pilot before moving to the Air Force, helped spearhead the campaign for the memorial. “People need to create memorials and monuments to honor those who give the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.The monument will be placed in Section 35 along Memorial Drive, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.

photo: US Army