Once again, the newsletter is late, being mailed around July 1st. Please check your mailing label on this issue to determine your Association dues status. In order to receive our address directory you must have a 2007 or Life to the right of your name. The yearly dues are $12. Life memberships are based on your age as follows: 50 and below-$200, 51 to 55-$175, 56 to 60-$150, 61 to 65-$125, and 66 up-$100. We presently have 265 life members, which is outstanding!
Our address directory will be mailed at the end of July.
Please check out a new item on our web site pertaining to the aircraft we flew. With your cursor on Vietnam, click on aircraft and see if your ship is listed here. Webmaster Gary White continues to do a bang-up job with our site.
At our San Antonio Reunion, someone left a white envelope in one of the bars that contained about 30 black and white photos taken in Vietnam in either 1965 or 1966. If you lost these, please contact the Association.
The Association has been contacted by Col. (ret) Ray Carson, a former 14th Battalion Commander. Col. Carson wanted anyone who wishes to contact him to please do so at: 606 sweetbriar Lane, Greenville, TN 37743, phone number 423-639-0016.
SAN ANTONIO REUNION
Our seventh reunion was another resounding success. First timers are just bowled over by everything and old timers always say, “This was the best one we’ve ever had!” Vic Bandini again did a bang-up job as our Reunion Committee Chairman.
James Malone (EM 71) was elected to our Board of Directors replacing Jim Jobson who had served two, two year terms on our board for which we are very grateful.
We had Brian Araki come in from Hawaii for his first reunion and take home the chrome engraved Jesus Nut for coming the longest distance to the reunion, 3699 miles. Harold Jackson of Soldotna, AK was second with a distance of 3210 miles.
The very beautiful Christy Campbell Phillips, daughter of Allie Campbell, sang the National Anthem at our banquet and NAILED IT!
The “Rattlers” of Saint Mary’s University took part in our banquet by the appearance of their ROTC Honor Guard which presented the Colors and we were then lead in the Pledge of Allegiance by Buck Crouch who always does it RIGHT!
And then there was Joe Galloway, knocking our socks off with his address given during the banquet.
This was overheard in a conversation with Joe Galloway concerning the scene in the movie, We Were Soldiers, where Joe supposedly picks up an M-16 with which to defend himself: “Hell no I never picked up an M-16. I ALWAYS carried my Swedish K with a bag of clips. I did not need anybody’s gun!”
Listening to Joe Galloway talk, one can just feel his love for the military personnel, then and now.
Also attending our banquet was a former 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Battalion Commander, Col. C.M. Henry. Col. Henry expressed his strong admiration for the men of the Rattlers and Firebirds who flew in support of his unit.
We did encounter some major noise problems in the ballroom next door and for that the hotel has paid the Association $5,000. This can never make up for what was lost, but you can bet the San Antonio Omni Hotel will not make that mistake again.
Donations of assorted items came from many different sources. Bill DiDio, who owns LZNam (www.lznam.com), furnished our reunion pins plus the bronze Remembrance Statue used in our raffle. Joe Kline (www.joekline.com) furnished a certificate for one of his helicopter prints for the raffle. David and Paula O’Quinn were able to obtain two sets of two round trip airline tickets on AirTrans Airline good for anywhere they fly to. Tony Jones brought in a boxful of OD t-shirts he had made up with all our logos on the back. Butch Meche gave us an uncut tail rotor chain, which will make 5 bracelets. Dan Garren made four latchhook rugs in the pattern of our patches for our silent auction which also included two sets of prints donated by Joe Fornelli.
Cliff Ohlenburger brought a mounted rattlesnake skin to the reunion that was donated by our first CO, Lewis Henderson. This mounting has been autographed by many of the men in the unit in 1965 and will be displayed at all future reunions.
At the banquet, the raffle drawings were won by Bill Patrick, Mark Leopold, Jaak Sepp, Doug Starkey and Robert Browning. Mark Leopold then proceeded to give his prize of airline tickets to Ron and Kay Seabolt, thank you very much!
Our Firebird Freefire Golf Outing was won by the foursome of Frank Anton, Will Hall, Dennis Hand and Tom Knapp.
Included in this newsletter is a list of those who attended. This list was comprised from three different sources because not everyone was registered. Because of this there may be an error or two on the list.
Our thanks also go to Dr. Linda Pitts (spouse of Archie Pitts) for her PTSD informational seminar given after our group photo. Dr. Pitts is very experienced in dealing with PTSD and the VA.
At San Antonio, as at EVERY reunion we have held, there are acts of love performed by our men toward their fellow comrades that just astound you. Most of those acts are known by only a few people but it sure does wonders for everyone involved. One act that has occurred repeatedly is our Association Chaplin Eric Kilmer, taking it upon himself to furnish our beautiful Memorial Service programs.
Our other Association Chaplin, Col. Whiz Broome, has recently became THE Official Pentagon Chaplin, moving from his previous post as head Chaplin at Fort Sill, OK.
Preliminary discussions are in progress with a couple of hotels in Denver, CO for our 2008 reunion site with a June date.
At every reunion we have “lessons learned”, i.e. don’t have a banquet next door to a wedding dance. After three reunion banquets of over 300 people each, it is becoming evident that we are going to have to go to assigned seating for the banquet. Armed Forces Reunions has assured us that it is very simple for them to do and that we will never regret doing it.
The following letter, dated March 7, 2006, was received and read at our banquet with copies made available to each person:
I send greetings to those gathered for the 2006 military reunion of the Rattlers and Firebirds of Company A/501st Aviation Battalion, 71st Assault Helicopter Company, 151st Transportation Detachment, and the 94th Signal Detachment.
For more than two centuries, members of our Armed Forces have built a tradition of honorable and faithful service. When the enemies of freedom were on the march, you answered the call and demonstrated courage, love of country, and dedication to duty. Our Nation is proud of your service and inspired by the commitment of the members of the Rattlers and Firebirds.
This reunion provides an opportunity for you to renew friendships, share memories, and celebrate achievements. Laura and I send our best wishes for an enjoyable event. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.
Signed, George W. Bush.
JOE GALLOWAY NOTE
It was my honor and pleasure to be there and share some of the fellowship of the Rattlers and Firebirds. In such gatherings I can only speak from my heart. I made it home ok tonight. I’m going to the Army War College Tuesday/Wednesday for a joint appearance with Gen. Hal Moore. Then over the weekend I am off to Branson, MO., for the Irlene Mandrell celebrity skeet shoot event. That one isn't work, obviously, but a lot of fun. Back home May 1st and here pretty much thru May ‘till time to head home to south Texas. I can’t wait. My best to you and your lady, and to all the gang! You don't owe me a thing.
Signed Joe Galloway
RATTLER LEGEND AWARD
At our Reunion Banquet, our Rattler Legend Award was awarded to Kerry “Lil’ Mac” McMahon. The following info was part of the award presentation by Don Lynam.
Kerry R. McMahon, "Rattler One-Nine," was a two tour Rattler, serving as a Warrant Officer and then as a Commissioned Officer.
On 15 November 1969, CW2 McMahon earned an Air Medal with "V" Device extracting the crew of a downed aircraft East of LZ Baldy. With the downed crew in heavy contact, he landed his aircraft amid the firefight and held his position under fire until the crew was on board, and flew them to safety.
In July of 1970, Rattler One-Nine performed a no-light extraction of a MACV/SOG CCN team deep in enemy controlled Laos. After making radio contact and locating the team's strobe, he initiated his approach. Nearing the ground in his descent, he lost all available ambient light, and did the only thing he could to save the team, he turned on his landing light. He then cut his way through trees and vegetation, got the team on board and, with his night vision compromised by the landing light, executed what amounted to an ITO (Instrument Take-Off) to climb out and return to Vietnam.
On 10 January 1971, 1LT McMahon again made a night extraction of a LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) in the vicinity of Tho An. This time using a Jungle Penetrator to recover the troops, he was able to maintain a steady hover in the darkness, with little or no reference to assist him. His skill allowed the use of the penetrator without injury to the troops as they were pulled up through the jungle, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On 3 March 1971, he earned a second Distinguished Flying Cross as Chalk Four of the lead element in the assault into Landing Zone Lolo in Laos, the most fiercely resisted insertion in Operation Lam Son 719. 1LT McMahon braved withering fire to successfully insert ARVN troops in the LZ. Despite the fact that the three previous ships had sustained serious damage from the enemy fire, one of which was shot down outside the LZ, he continued his approach, inserted his troops, and was himself shot down, his ship bursting into flame. (During Lam Son 719, this became known as marking the LZ with a burning helicopter.) He then led his crew to a position of cover until they could be extracted.
Although he was of quiet demeanor, he commanded the respect of all ranks among the Rattlers and Firebirds. Even if he had never been formally recognized for his heroism and competence as an aviator, his position as an informal leader was secured by the calm and courage he displayed under fire.
Before our San Antonio Reunion a call was placed to the Dallas VA Hospital to see if copies of the 120 page booklet, “Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependents” could be obtained to pass out at our VA informational meeting. When the Public Affairs Specialist was located about this request his immediate response was, “Those booklets cost us $5.00 each!” Wonder exactly who they were printed for? After three trips to the VA the booklets were obtained.
Ron Seabolt’s claim for a 20% service connected rating for Tinnitus (ear ringing) is still on appeal.
A very disturbing number of men are being refused service connection for items that are clearly covered under VA rules. Never, ever fail to protest a VA ruling that goes against you!
The Association has been informed of the following deaths since our last newsletter:
Michael Eubanks (WO 67-68) died on 9 April 1999. The cause is unknown
Ed Gwynn (WO 69) died on 11 January 2006 after a long battler with cancer.
Ed Frazier (OF 70-71) died on 5 May 2006 from a heart condition. Ed Frazier had served as both XO and CO of the 71st AHC during his tour.
CLOSURE IS WHERE YOU FIND IT
A Note from Linda Green – Thank You, For Everything!
I have so many thoughts right now they're just kind of running thru my mind. I know that even though I'm much more prolific with written words vs in-person conversations (has to do with not being able to hear and therefore being unable to respond appropriately) there is absolutely no way that I can tell you how much this reunion meant to me.
Someone told me that even though I lost a brother I now have many of them. And that's exactly how I feel. Gary White told me "You're one of us now. I hope you know that". And that's exactly how I feel.
On the way to the airport Bill DiDio took off his Vietnam bracelet, handed it to me and said "I want you to have this. Wear it". All I could do was cry and say 'thank you'. I think that's mostly what I did for 3 days. Cry and say 'thank you'.
Vincent introduced me to Joe Galloway and told him I had a book I wanted him to sign. Joe asked me who it was for and I told him 'my son'. He said "Was he in the military?" and I said no but he lost his uncle in Vietnam. My brother. And suddenly there were tears in Joe's eyes (and mine) and he looked at me with thoseeyes that have seen so much and said "It never gets any easier, does it"? He's so eloquent andso wise and I never would have met him if it weren't for you. Thank you.
I was talking with Jim Pfister and he suddenly said "Is it okay if I hug you"? Another new brother.Thank you.
Gary Parks telling me "I knew you were his sister as soon as you walked in the door. You look so much like him". And Gary cried. And I cried.
And every time I hugged someoneI felt so close to Richard. Because they were.
And none of thesememories would be real if it weren't for you.
And Kay. Beautiful Kay. Without herI know you wouldn't be able to do what you do for everyone.Please thank her for me.
Ron Seabolt ...you are an amazing man. And I love you. Like a brother. Because you are. My brother.
Linda Green’s Note to Freddy Dutton
The Reunion was an incredible experience and I am so honored to have the gift you made in Richard's memory. It's so beautiful and, I think, especially so because it was made with love. It will be in a place of honor in my home until I'm gone and I've promised my son that it will be passed on to him to pass on to his children.
My daughter-in-law cried when she heard the story of how you looked for so many years to find Richard's family and when she heard about the gift she cried again.
I cried a lot of tears in San Antonio because every time I hugged someone it felt as if Richard was there looking over my shoulder and smiling that incredible smile of his.I talked to Rob Eggleston (one of the pilots who was with Richard when he died), and Ed Maryliw and Gary Parks and so many others. There were men there who didn't know Richard but had heard of him and they all wanted to hug me, too.
Someone told me that I had lost a brother but now I have many more. And I do. And I'm so glad you're one of them!
You didn't know this but the letter you wrote to Ron Seabolt was written on my birthday and I think God had a hand in that, too.
Thank you again so very much for not giving up on finding us.
Note from Freddy Dutton to Linda Green
Thank you so much for the email letter. It is so good that you could attend the reunion in San Antonio. I wanted this to be a special experience for you, and I wanted to do something special for you in memory of Richard. It meant a lot to me to handcraft this plate for you and I feel as though this gives all of us a special connection now that you can display that plate in memory of Richard and also knowing that I was a very special friend to your brother, and made the plate for you. I had planned this presentation last fall and began coming up with the idea of making aplate for you to display. That's amazing that it was mailed on your birthday! I just wanted to make sure that it arrived at the location where the reunion would be and that it got there in time for the presentation. The Lord provided all of this to happen at the right time.
Did you read the article in the Westside Messenger about you, the plate and me? You can access this article by going into the website of Westside Messenger. If this article is not on there anymore, let me know and I will send you a copy of the paper with the article. You are also quoted and mentioned in this article.
I want to stay in touch with you and your family. I also want to come out that way sometime in the future and visit Richard's grave site. Please keep in touch! May God always abundantly bless you and keep you and yours in His loving care.
Your friend, Freddy
THANK YOU NOTES
Ron, after 16 hours of hard driving I arrived back home in Tennessee at 11:45 pm Sunday night. I wanted to pass back to you all the compliments that I received about the fine job you are doing with the Association. Because of your efforts, past and present, approximately 200 former Rattlers/Firebirds were together again. Some of these men had never been to a reunion, but now realize how important, to our own well being, it is to go.
Once again, I hope you realize the impact that you are having on so many people. In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank your lovely wife Kay for her many contributions (you lucky man) and to your sidekick Wilkie and Sandy. From the bottom of my heart, thank you greatly. Signed Sam Arthur.
Ron-Kay: I hope you had s safe return home. I would like to thank you guys for helping me have the most enjoyable three consecutive days of my adult life. Hope to see you in Denver. Gary Johnson said he would come to Denver.
Signed, Shirley Whitehead.
Editor’s note: Thank all of you for attending the reunion and for these notes.
Never fly anything that doesn’t have the paint worn off the rudder pedals.
Never fly in the same cockpit with someone braver than you.
It only takes two things to fly…..airspeed and money.
A copilot is a knothead until he spots opposite direction traffic at 12 o’clock, after which he’s a goof-off for not seeing it sooner.
I give that landing a 9……..on the Richter scale.
FAA motto: We’re not happy until you’re not happy.
The only time an aircraft has too much fuel on board is when it is on fire. (not necessarily true in overloaded conditions)
You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3. (SR-71 Blackbird pilot saying)
The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world. It can just barely kill you.
He who demands everything that his aircraft can give him is a pilot. He that demands one iota more is a fool.
It is solely the pilot’s responsibility to never let any other thing touch his aircraft.