CO. A/501 AVIATION BN., 71st ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY

VOL. XIX NUMBER 1 ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER MAY 2013

A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

ODDS and ENDS

From John Mateyko - In John Wayne's GREEN BERETS is a scene at Fort Benning of an armed helicopter pilot showing someone (maybe Wayne) the right rocket (7) pod. The pilot doing so is CWO Hoot Gibson who was a Firebird early '65-early '66.


This newsletter is late and the November one will be late also while we await the Texas Ranger Baseball schedule for 2014 to come out. If they are playing at home on June 20, 2014, this will be offered as one of the outings. The Ballpark At Arlington is just a short drive (5 miles or so) from our hotel on a freeway. At our St. Louis Reunion in 2002 about 25 or so attended as a group to see the Cardinals play.

You should plan on checking our web site as the reunion nears for any updates. www.rattler-firebird.org.

A reminder that as of the November 2012 newsletter….the newsletter is now only mailed to dues paying members. If you have 2013 on your mailing label, this expires on June 30th. You will not receive an address directory unless more dues are paid.

Our new address directory will be mailed sometime in July. If you have any corrections to be made, please let us know ASAP.


Around the first of May 1995, we held our first big reunion. This was called the Dallas reunion because that is the largest city in the area. It was probably in Irving on highway 183 south of DFW Airport. This was the weekend of Cinco De Mayo (May 5th), a large celebration of our Latin population. To say we had a storm is an understatement. That Friday evening there was baseball sized hail in the area that caused several deaths. The worst of the storm was not near our hotel but as a precaution the hotel forced us out of our meeting room because of the many glass windows that would have been exposed to this hail had it reached us. We were put in hallways, restrooms and the one small club that was onsite.

Every year it seems, that storm of 1995 is always brought up when Cinco De Mayo is mentioned. Those of us who attended the reunion do not need to be reminded in order to remember how it was. Several guys on aircraft were placed in holding patterns because DFW Airport had to suspend operations.

We had over 170 men from the company show up and believe me we were not prepared for that many. We had a small selection of items for sale along with yearly memberships. People were litterly throwing money at us and we did not even have a money box. I (Ron Seabolt) was taking hands full of money to our safety deposit box.

That reunion was supposed to have been held in Las Vegas. Nobody would touch us Vietnam veterans with a contract. This was at a time shortly after the Navy Tailhook fiasco out there. At the very last moment, Chuck Carlock and I met with the sales manager of the hotel and signed a very unfriendly contract. If our people did not show up it was going to cost a bundle for somebody and this somebody had no bundles.

Needless to say, our guys came through big time. From that reunion forward we have been able to get contracts that are much more “user friendly” to us because of our track record of putting people in the rooms. There will come a time of diminishing returns. As we age, more and more of us active members will appear on our Taps list. Our New Orleans Reunion attendee list held in June of last year has lost three men to death within six months of the reunion. Two of these men never missed a reunion.


On January 29, 2013 a tail rotor chain bracelet, identical to the ones we have at the reunions as part of our raffle, sold on ebay for $320.00.


On February 2, 2013 former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle was shot and killed by a person with severe PTSD which Kyle was trying to help. It was just a senseless death for the author of the bestselling book, American Sniper. Kyle had a reported 160 confirmed kills and well over 200 probables. His longest confirmed kill was 1.2 miles away. Folks, that’s over 21 football field lengths! His nickname among his fellow SEALs was “The Legend”. That says it all.

This is being mentioned here because Kay and I are neighbors with some very nice folks who had known Kyle all his life. Their kids went to school with him in a small town south of Dallas. Chris Kyle was on the short list as a banquet speaker for the next reunion. On to plan B.


ANYONE INTERESTED IN GOING BACK TO VIETNAM?

Hal Bowen (OF 67-68) wants to gauge the interest in going back to Vietnam with a group of Rattlers and Firebirds. He has contact with a man who contracts these tours regularly. The price per person is $3595 for an all-inclusive trip (except alcohol) from LAX. This trip would be tailored to see our area of operations in both Bien Hoa and Chu Lai. All hotel accommodations would be air conditioned rooms and transportation via air conditioned tour bus. A passport would be required. Hal is thinking of a late 2014 time frame. If you have a desire to do this contact Hal at bhalbow@telpage.net or phone 434-577-2608. Please do not call our Association concerning this.


Note received from Dave Ellingsworth on 18 April:

Something very interesting happened yesterday, I play in a senior golf league on Wednesday mornings at my club in McLeansboro, IL. There was a guy there that looked as if I had seen him somewhere before and he had on a very familiar looking cap. As I got closer to him it looked like a Firebird on his hat and also had a crewman's wings. I walked up to him and said tell me about your cap. He said "I was a door gunner in the 71st Assault Helicopter Company." I stuck out my hand and said "I'm Firebird 93". Well we didn't even know each other’s names and here's two old men hugging each other in front of the club house with about thirty men standing around looking at us thinking what is going on here with these two guys. We finally got around to introducing ourselves and he happened to be Jim Pfister. We didn't know it but all these years we lived about thirty miles from each other. Well we had quite a reunion right there.

Just thought that was another story worth telling. Hope you guys are staying healthy.


2014 REUNION

We have a contract for the next reunion at the Marriott DFW Airport South in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. This hotel is located at 4151 Centreport Blvd, Ft. Worth, TX. It has been recently updated and I must say when we visited it was a very nice place (better than New Orleans, but maybe not quite as pretty as Nashville was).

Once again there were difficulties involved in getting a hotel to allow us to do all the things we want in a contract. Having said this, I feel like we (Chuck Carlock and I) have beat them into submission finally. We were only offered one date, which is June 18, 2014 to June 22, 2014. This is starting the Wednesday after Father’s Day.

The group rate is $109 per night plus 15% for a total of right at $125. The rates are good for three days before and three days after the reunion. The rate includes a free breakfast buffet consisting of: eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, breakfast potatoes, fruit, cereal, pancakes, hash browns, yogurt, muffins, pastries, toast, coffee, and orange juice.

We will be able to bring in our snacks, sodas and water to provide a free lunch for our people. For the one daily meal our people will need to buy, there are twelve assorted eating places within two blocks of the hotel. Most are fast food places but it gives our people abundant choices if they do not wish to buy high priced hotel restaurant meals. The alcoholic beverages will be purchased from the hotel, but at reasonable rates but as always they will be free to our people.

Our room block is broken down this way: Wednesday – 100, Thursday – 140, Friday and Saturday – 160. Our room block consists of 50% doubles and 50% king rooms.

Our banquet meal will cost $40 each with three selections to choose from.

The helicopter parking area is accessible through the back door of our hospitality room, just like it was in New Orleans. This same access works for the unloading and reloading of our display material.

The hotel has free parking and free shuttle service to DFW Airport that is two or three miles away.

There is free wi-fi in the rooms.

Realize this is not being written by a world traveler. I do good to get across a county line. Having said that, this Marriott Hotel has hanging on a support pillar near the check-in counter what I thought was a piece of art of some type. It was a touch screen giving all of the DFW flight information, just like in the terminal. It had several other features also.

A bus tour out to Fort Wolters is planned already. We received quite a number of requests for this.

This is a smoke free hotel. All smoking must be done outside the hotel. A $250 cleaning fee is charged to anyone smoking in their room.

Remember, if you break something in the hotel, you are liable for it.

Reservations cannot be made until after 1 July. We lose our room block on May 28, 2014.

Once again Military Reunion Planners (MRP) will be handling the banquet and tour tickets as was the case with the last three reunions.

I know you read and hear this before every reunion but it is very important. Please, please make your reservations as early as possible. You cannot imagine how stressful it is on the organizers to be nearing a cutoff date and be way off from meeting our “numbers”. We need your help!


TAPS

The Association has been informed of the following deaths since our last newsletter.


VETERANS AFFAIRS

The letter below is an example of a support letter one might use for helping our guys with a hearing loss or tinnitus (ear ringing) claim. Note the form the VA requests, specifically the veterans claim number at the top of the letter and your certification above your signature. When you sign any letter that is going to the VA, by all means be truthful. This example letter is for use to those stationed at Chu Lai.

Claim Number: 12 345 678

Date: 1 Jan. 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

John “Rocky” Doe served in Vietnam in the same assault helicopter company and in the same platoon that I served in. We were both UH-1H “Huey” crew chiefs.

In our daily missions we were subjected to different types of extreme noise levels. Every time the aircraft was cranked we were standing outside of the aircraft for the purpose of ensuring that no fire hazard existed. The crew chief would peer into the engine housing while doing this, without any ear protection whatsoever. This places your head two feet from this jet turbine engine while it comes up to operating RPMs.

At this point we got into the aircraft in our fighting position, behind an M-60 machinegun. As we take off the terribly high pitched noise from the helicopter transmission overwhelms you because the aircraft transmission is less than two feet right behind your head, with only a metal wall separating your head from the transmission.

We typically would perform combat assaults inserting infantry wherever needed and would place suppressive machinegun fire onto our landing zone. This M-60 is firing at a rate of over 600 rounds per minute and is less than two feet in front of your head.

Often we would land in an area adjacent to an artillery position to await orders. Then a fire mission would commence from the artillery. Ear splitting booms that even shake the ground would commence.

Lastly, our flight line was located 50 feet from the taxiway of Chu Lai Airfield and on which were stationed Marine flight wings. This taxiway was in near constant use by F-4 Phantoms and A-4 Skyhawks idling by our area with their jet engines whining while we were doing daily inspections and other prep work on our aircraft.

We hold company reunions every two years and outsiders always remark, “That’s the loudest talking bunch of people I have ever heard in my life!” They are listening to former flight crews trying to communicate while dealing with the constant ear ringing and especially a loss of high tones. None of us have the hearing ability we had before entering military service and most of us suffer from the extremes of ringing in the ears, tinnitus.

This statement describes a typical day for a crew chief in an assault helicopter company.

I hereby certify that the information I have given is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Sincerely,

Signature


Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Dependency and indemnity compensation, which is also known as DIC, states that if a veteran dies as a result of his service connected disability, his spouse is entitled to this compensation. The amount is based upon what your pay grade was. For instance, pay grades E-1 thru E-6 receive $1215 per month as of 2013. If the veteran was rated at 100% disabled for eight years and his spouse was married to him during those eight years, add $258 per month. For each dependent child under age 18 add $301. All of the above is tax free.


A reminder received from Dick Sienkiewicz: I reviewed the booklet Agent Orange Review. It has much information for veterans who served in Vietnam. I know several who have been at the reunions who have not been checked for Agent Orange exposure. The VA stresses that "if you served in Vietnam, you should be checked." It also provides a web site to get more information; www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange. A list of helpful phone numbers is also provided:

Agent Orange Helpline 1-800-749-8387
VA Benefits Information 1-800-827-1000
Nearest VA Medical Center 1-877-222-8387

Another piece of info in this latest review is that the VA now presumes Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) as being related to their military service as long as they served over 90 continuous days. This is not Vietnam related, it covers everyone. If you happen to know a veteran who has ALS, they can draw VA money for it and you should ask them if they are aware of this benefit.


Every man should be prepared to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Many of us will die with, but not of, a cancer in our prostate. Most vets don't file for the SMC-k (special monthly compensation) benefit for erectile dysfunction once diagnosed with prostate cancer? Your 100% rating for prostate cancer will continue if you elect "watchful waiting"? If you choose surgery or brachytherapy, your rating may fall to 20% unless you take action to protect yourself?

A veteran may receive from one to three SMC-k awards.


PURPLE HEART FORTY THREE YEARS LATER

From MaryLou Wade (sister of Captain Herb Crosby)

Herby's Purple Heart was presented to mom yesterday by Capt. Tweedy at the nursing home where she resides now. The service was small, yet so special. Mom was so very excited with eyes of wonderment, joy and sadness. A lot of the photos capture these emotions which are priceless. It took 43 years, forty-three years to get this high recognition. Long overdue. Although, to be honest with all my Vietnam veteran friends…you all should receive Purple Hearts because no matter if you came home with visible wounds, you all came home with invisible wounds. Everyone holds these wounds differently, yet you all sacrificed all during that war. That's just the way I feel, you all deserve Purple Hearts. Mom does not hear well at all, but she sees, reads lips and knows what is going on just fine. Mom is not totally lost to dementia just yet. She still mixes current with times from the 1940s which for her were one of the most memorable and happy times of her life. When she strays I just go along with whatever she is talking about which ends up for us both having a great time together. If she has something to say, she'll say it, no words amiss. Plain as an infant speaking innocent truth. Makes for lively conversation.

We also received official record that Herby is entitled to and approved for the Bronze Star Medal, National Defensive Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" Device and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm Device. Some of these he has already, so we are pursuing the medals he does not currently have.

And, Firebirds give a salute to Wally (Gene Waldrip)…he was also recently awarded a Purple Heart that he should have received years ago. I'm sure he has not shared this yet, but his recognition is due. He'll kick my as_ for sharing this, but…eek, sorry Wally, you deserve the high honor of recognition for your commitment to our country. I'm so thankful I know Wally [Gene] personally and am so grateful that he has shared his stories with me. He among all the Summer of '69 Firebirds and Rattlers are very dear to my heart. They are my brothers now. Lost one, but gain a whole Assault Helicopter Company of brothers…what could be more wonderful than that!

Always spreading the word of our Vietnam Veterans and of our Vietnam POW/MIAs, Marylou


IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO SAY THANK YOU!

The following was taken from a series of emails received by the Association:

I am looking for a helicopter pilot named Curtis. He came in and got us. He wasn’t even supposed to be flying any more. Can you help? I was with Delta Co 4/31 of the 196th LIB. Date was May 1st 1970 Thanks, signed Don Indra.

We have a Warrant Officer Michael D. Curtis whose DEROS was 5 June 1970. I will attempt to pass your message to him. It was good to hear from you and your “Thank You for leading the copters in”.

I know all about forgetting. I call it three-quarter times going to full-timers. I do plan on calling you also and if we ever meet the steak is on me. I have no idea whether May 1 sticks out in your mind of not but it sure does in mine.

I had a nice long visit with Mike and told him thank you! I was right as he said he was supposed to go home on the 4th of May. I sure do thank you for your help. I’ve been saying I needed to do this for over forty years. Don

As I was professing in Saigon I made a comment about four years of college and what do I get but the fun infantry. Guy looked up and says “somebody has to keep those dumb SOB’s alive. I came into Delta Co. in August of 69, right after they hit all that shit. They pulled me off of a deuce and half heading for 1st of 1st. I was among the first group in. I went on my first sweep seven men strong. I was the new meat so I got to walk drag (last man) a position that I did for six months. In the first sweep we walked to the exact spot that you guys came and got us out of. I remember making a comment that a man could spend the night here if he had to.

We had been on stand down and the 1st platoonand Zapper squad went to LZ Siberia. Wewalked off LZ West with two platoons. My squad ran a short sweep and ran into two NVA’s in a foxhole. While the rest of the squad was taking care of business I grabbed the two new meats and put them on ground with me covering our backs. That night our log birddid get hit but only for a couple of minutes. One of the guys more or less refused to dig a foxhole and I finally told him “If I make it and you don’t I will write your mother and tell her that her boy didn’t make because he was too lazy to dig a hole’. The next morning they decided to move us to asafer area. Talk about moving from the frying pan to the fire. One guy sprained an ankle so they dusted him off. Dust Off got shot down so they got another ship in and we moved out. We were walking through this ditch (which is why the NVA didn’t know where we were) and there was como wire in it which we cut several times. We finally found a trail and didn’t go very far and encountered sniper fire. They were shooting at my old dirty bush hat which I used to sit on. I wasthe squad leader . We were ordered to drop our heavy packs and pull back. We had this big black guy that carried an M- 60. He stood up and covered us Rambo style. I was so proud of him. By some miracle we made it through the night. This is where you guys came in. We were supposed to leave on two lifts and this black guy crawled up to me said “We’re all going on the first lift”and I said just remember that I will be on Charles side and I won’t miss. I thought the helicopters would never get off the ground over loaded like that. I called our CO Capt. Tannus and told him we were all coming out on one lift. A few minutes later we all left. Looking back on it, it was a good thing because the last bird was shot down. I sort of think that is where my Silver Star came from.

I extended sixty seven days. I didn’t want to go to Fort Riley where they train the MP’s. I ran resupply out of LZ West which is how I remembered the call sign of Mr. Curtis. It took about 2 weeks to figure a way to get hot A rations to the company every time a bird went out. I was known to trade a case of SP’s for M 60 barrels with the door gunners. If a new meat was short of something before he went to the field, I gave them mine. One guy got my M 16 and did the supply sergeant in the rear ever get it. Another guy even got my rosary. I don’t regret doing what I did but I would not want to do it again because I never would of made it home.

Well I’ve talked for too long already, hope I didn’t bore you I will also call one of these days I sort of think you are on the east coast in Georgia. I’m from Nebraska, Johnny Carson’s home town. Don Indra (Indy)


ABOUT HELICOPTER PILOTS

"A bunch of spare parts flying in close formation."

"Anything that screws its way into the sky flies according to unnatural principals."

You never want to sneak up behind an old high-time helicopter pilot and clap your hands. He will instantly dive for cover and most likely whimper...then get up and smack the crap out of you.

There are no old helicopters laying around airports like you see old airplanes. There is a reason for this. Come to think of it, there are not many old high-time helicopter pilots hanging around airports either so the first issue is moot.

You can always tell a helicopter pilot in anything moving: a train, an airplane, a car or a boat. They never smile, they are always listening to the machine and they always hear something they think is not right. Helicopter pilots fly in a mode of intensity, actually more like "spring loaded" while waiting for pieces of their ship to fall off.

Flying a helicopter at any altitude over 500 feet is considered reckless and should be avoided. Flying a helicopter at any altitude or condition that precludes a landing in less than 20 seconds is considered outright foolhardy.

Remember in a helicopter you have about one second to lower the collective in an engine failure before the craft becomes unrecoverable. Once you've failed this maneuver the machine flies about as well as a 2 ton meat locker. Even a perfectly executed autorotation only gives you a glide ratio slightly better than that of a brick.

When your wings are leading, lagging, flapping, precessing and moving faster than your fuselage there's something unnatural going on. Is this the way men were meant to fly?

While hovering, if you start to sink a bit, you pull up on the collective while twisting the throttle, push with your left foot (more torque) and move the stick left (more translating tendency) to hold your spot. If you now need to stop rising, you do the opposite in that order. Sometimes in wind you do this many times each second. Great fun is letting a fighter pilot go for a ride and try this.

For Helicopters: You never want to feel a sinking feeling in your gut (low "g" pushover) while flying a two bladed under slung teetering rotor system. You are about to do a snap-roll to the right and crash. For that matter, any remotely aerobatic maneuver should be avoided in a Huey.

Don't push your luck. It will run out soon enough anyway. If everything is working fine on your helicopter consider yourself temporarily lucky. Something is about to break.

There are two types of helicopter pilots: Those that have crashed, and those that are going to.

Harry Reasoner once wrote the following about helicopter pilots: "The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by an incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to."

Having said all this, I must admit that flying in a helicopter is one of the most satisfying and exhilarating experiences I have ever enjoyed: skimming over the tops of trees at 100 knots is something we should all be able to do at least once.

And remember the fighter pilot's prayer: "Lord I pray for the eyes of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the balls of a combat helicopter pilot."

Many years later I know that it was sometimes anything but fun, but now it IS something to brag about for those of us who survived the experience.


TO ALL MY MILITARY FRIENDS WHO WROTE THE CHECK

Received from Jim Moore

When a Veteran leaves the 'job' and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased, and others, who may have already retired, wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind, because we already know.

  1. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times.
  2. We know in the Military life there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet.
  3. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was and in his heart still is.

These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the Military world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing.

Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the 'job' and merely being allowed to leave 'active' duty.

So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

NOW...Civilian Friends vs. Veteran Friends Comparisons:

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Get upset if you're too busy to talk to them for a week.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are glad to see you after years, and will happily carry on the same conversation you were having the last time you met.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have never seen you cry.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have cried with you.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Keep your stuff so long they forget it's yours.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Borrow your stuff for a few days then give it back.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Know a few things about you.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Could write a book with direct quotes from you.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will leave you behind if that's what the crowd is doing.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will stand by you no matter what the crowd does.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Are for a while.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Are for life.

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Have shared a few experiences...
VETERAN FRIENDS: Have shared a lifetime of experiences no citizen could ever dream of...

CIVILIAN FRIENDS: Will take your drink away when they think you've had enough.
VETERAN FRIENDS: Will look at you stumbling all over the place and say, 'You better drink the rest of that before you spill it!' Then carry you home safely and put you to bed…

From one Veteran to another, it's an honor to be in your company. Thank you for your service to our country and defending the freedoms we enjoy.

Life is neither a spectator sport, nor a dress rehearsal.


SOAPBOX EDITORIAL

by Ron Seabolt

Some truths that become much more self evident the older we get. You can leave combat, but combat never leaves you. It is always there waiting every opportunity to intrude upon your thoughts, actions and very much in nightmares. I have been awakened by Kay while hitting her in the head, by kicking the hell out of her and by more times than I can count by screaming or moaning. In a recent dream I fell out of bed in my attempt to duck the rotor blade of a crashing helicopter. This is my personal hell of PTSD.

My brother-in-law Wilkie Boyd recently told me of approaching a legless man who had Purple Heart license plates. He asked if the missing limbs were from Vietnam. The guy said it was and asked if Wilkie was in ‘Nam. He told him no but then told him of his involvement in our Association through Ron Seabolt. This man went on to expound the almost inhuman bravery of helicopter pilots. “I’ve seen those guys hovering a chopper behind that Plexiglas windshield with pieces being shot off the aircraft!” He went on to say that there was no way he would be alive today without helicopter pilots.

A lifelong friend, Rick Jones once said to me, “How in the hell did you have the balls to fly on one of those Hueys every day?” This question was coming from a former Marine grunt that spent 20 months crawling over the mountains within sight of the DMZ. I guess it is all in your perspective. I could not imagine going through what he did, and to extend his tour for six months to stay in exactly the same place, out in the field with his buddies seems like a suicide idealation to me.


SOAPBOX EDITORIAL II

From a Navy Commander _ (Ret) in San Diego

“So with all the kindness I can muster, I give this one piece of advice to the next pop star who is asked to sing the National Anthem at a sporting event: save the vocal gymnastics and the physical gyrations for your concerts. Just sing this song the way you were taught to sing it in kindergarten — straight up, no styling.

Sing it with the constant awareness that there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines watching you from bases and outposts all over the world. Don’t make them cringe with your self-centered ego gratification. Sing it as if you are standing before a row of 86-year-old WWII vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars and flag pins on their cardigans and you want them to be proud of you for honoring them and the country they love — not because you want them to think you are a superstar musician. They could see that from your costume, makeup and your entourage.

Sing The Star Spangled Banner with the courtesy and humility that tells the audience that it is about America, not you. Francis Scott Key does not need any help."

This office was recently informed of hearing that at a primary school assembly in which a WWII vet was going to speak, the school principal introduced the gentleman as being a veteran of World War Eleven. That is bad!

Tom Knapp (EM 66-67) told of being at his church for Memorial Day services when the pastor had the veterans of each war to stand. This amounted to about 50-60 total. He then asked for all persons who had been awarded the Purple Heart to stand and Tom was the only one standing. Later he had three different ladies ask him what you had to do to get the Purple Heart. Bad again!


SOAPBOX EDITORIAL III

John Lynch (EM 66-67)
John Lynch (EM 66-67)

Everybody needs a hero. Mine is John Lynch. On July 2, 1967 he was a part of a three ship mission assigned to work doing whatever the unit needed done. John’s ship, 796, with a new gunner named Clark and AC of WO-1 Conrad Howard along with CE Don Profitt, gunner Larry Smith and AC David O’Quinn on Profitt’s ship were tasked to load up and dump in the ocean a couple of loads of old and damaged ammo, grenades, and what have you because of a pending visit of some general. My ship, 189, the third ship of three was sent to do some other bidding.

While John Lynch and his gunner were busy dumping this “trash” something went terribly wrong. An explosion occurred in the cargo compartment which critically injured the two crewmen. Both pilots were protected from harm by their armored seats.

As Mr. Howard called the medevac pad he told them he didn’t think his crew chief was going to make it. Although down and bleeding profusely, Lynch’s helmet was still hooked up and working. John remembered thinking, “Who did he say wasn’t going to make it?”

John did make it but without one eye and with a body riddled with shrapnel which still works itself to the surface 46 years later. John recovered enough to be medically discharged from the Army with a small service connected disability.

John has had an untold number of problems related to this old injury but kept right on plugging along.

Sonja Lynch, Kay Seabolt, Sandy Boyd, Ron Seabolt, Wilkie Boyd and John Lynch outside the Bush Library in Dallas

Sonja Lynch, Kay Seabolt, Sandy Boyd, Ron Seabolt, Wilkie Boyd and John Lynch outside the Bush Library in Dallas

When our Association began finding guys our platoon Sergeant Larry Lackey really wanted to locate John Lynch and so did Conrad Howard. All of these guys attended our 1995 Dallas reunion. Mr. Howard died of cancer before the Orlando reunion.

As the years progressed John Lynch became more and more involved in the caretaking of our beloved Sarge Lackey right up until his death last year. This was at a time when John had just learned of having throat cancer.

About a month ago John and his lovely wife Sonja came and stayed with us for a few days and we did the touristy stuff and really had a great time. Sonja is currently battling cancer along with other aliments but that all seemed to be on the back burner during our visit.

One night I asked John if he ever regretted going to Vietnam. He told me, “None whatsoever. If I had it to do over I would go again tomorrow. My country called and that was where I was supposed to be!”

John Lynch is my hero, putting his life on the line in Vietnam, putting off critical cancer treatment of his own to care for Sarge Lackey in his final days and then offering his worn out body to do it all again if needed. I am proud to have served with him and to call him my friend.

Oh, and that helmet he was wearing is on display at the Vietnam War section of the Smithsonian in D.C. with shrapnel holes showing in several places.


JIM (GEORGE) HARDEMAN MEMORIES

From MaryLou Wade:

George Hardeman
George Hardeman

An awesome man and one that I became good friends with. I drove him to the Nashville reunion, with Dan following driving our car. George and I had a great journey of Vietnam history, specifically the history of the summer of '69 Rattlers and Firebirds. He told me of my brother, Herby. He told me of the struggles, the real life, love and pain of the Firebirds. That ride to Nashville with George will be forever engraved in my mind and heart. Just to listen to him tell stories of my brother was priceless. I can't tell you how much the summer of '69 era Firebirds and Rattlers have touched my heart in many ways. Everything comes in due time, and it took 37 years for due time to turn me on the best, the very best of the Army to come into my life. I am so blessed, so happy, and so proud to know, and be friends now with them all. I know this must come across strangely to some, but it's so very real for me. I've said this many, many times, I lost one brother in Vietnam, yet through his loss I have gained a whole Company of brothers, the Rattlers and Firebirds, and more closely the summer of '69 Firebirds. You all touch my heart more than I can ever properly express. Again, I am blessed with you all.

With that, I tell you that George (Jim) Hardeman was a true hero. A true devoted man of faith, of country, and of fellow man. He gave all he had to defend us all. He was a devoted family man who loved his wife, his children. He was also devoted, maybe even more so, to the Rattlers and Firebirds. His memory of all his comrades, all the fights, the flights, the laughter, and the true grit pain of death and destruction came to life in his stories. I'd sit and listen to those stories in the Firebird Party Room at the reunions, being overcome with the reality of what he was saying. It took several times hearing the stories for me to truly get a grip on the magnitude of it all. I felt so ashamed in a way because I didn't know all this reality. I was too young at the time this was all happening during the war. I felt though a connection I really can't describe yet, I did know that I felt accepted by the Firebirds. This has become even more so since 2007 when I first met most of them at Herby's funeral in Arlington. From then, it's been a most wonderful experience that has been put in my path which I hold so cherished. That is to know and be a part of the Rattlers and Firebirds.

George's funeral was beautiful, emotional, grand and proper for the superior Firebird Gunner he was, and will always be. I'm so very glad I was able to attend. I could not have missed it for anything less than being in the hospital, or dead. He died way too young, and died all because of Vietnam. Yet, I have comfort he is with his much loved, cherished wife LaRue.

It was great to see all the Firebirds and Chico at George's funeral. A great turnout of Firebirds. George would have loved it.


From Lynn Kazmierowski – Firebird 92

George with Kaz's Baby

George and I and flew to hell and back more times than I care to remember. Many memories have faded since my Vietnam War experience, but I can still recall many of my missions with George. He was always ready to go, as were all of his fellow Firebird crew members - Ski, Hiler, Thomas, Cameron, Wally, Chunky, Davey, Bruce, Barron, Trendel, Gorski, Wayne, and Francis.

I can still hear that “Mr. Kaz “ from George telling me about what needed to be done or his concern about something, he was proud to be a Firebird. I was a 20 year old single guy from the South Side of Chicago and George was from Hiram, GA, a family man, three years my senior– but we got along great.

As they say now days the guy “had my back” – George literally did, he rode right behind me with his M-60 machine gun and that guy could put the rounds on target! I can’t recall one mission where George did not keep that M-60 firing and do his utmost to protect me, his fellow crewmembers and the Fire Team. I truly believe I would not be here today if it were not for George and the rest of the Firebird Gunners and Crew Chiefs.

My last flight in Vietnam was a test fire flight out of Chu Lai, to a free fire zone south along the coast. Those flights only required one pilot, so we usually had a crewmember or two go along. After all our time together I finally got George up in a front seat, Davey Nottingham grabbed an M-60 and rode along as Door Gunner. Of course as typical Firebirds we broke a few rules, but George got a lot of ‘Stick Time” and he also got to fire the 40 MM Grenade Launcher. It felt good to let George get up front and fly that Charlie Model Gunship, he had a Hell of a good time.

That test fire mission turned out to be a little more memorable than we expected. We flushed out a couple of bad guys, but when we turned back to Chu Lai, that day, there were two less VC to worry about.

George was the guy, when most of us got back together after the War, George was the one that remembered most everything. At so many of our reunions, I would listen to George and be amazed at his recall, he was the “Firebird Historian”. The Company Reunions were great – but the gatherings of the Firebirds at George’s lake place were the best – it took us back to when we were all in Vietnam together.

I borrowed this quote from a WWII B-17 Bombardier in the 8th Air force 100th Bomber Group. – Joe Armanini, this is exactly how I would describe my feelings about George and the other men I flew with in the Firebirds.

“It was something we were proud of no matter what happens, you will always remember your time in the War. There is

Camaraderie, a Friendship that you never forget. You may forget your missions, but you don’t ever forget your friends.”


From Gene Waldrip – Firebird Crew Chief

James “George” Hardeman and I started in “F troop” platoon at about the same time, in 1969. After a short stint flying with the slicks, we both went over to the Firebird gunship platoon. George and I were hootch mates in the Firebirds, and consequently, we got to know each other very well. George was a little older than most of us. He was married to his beloved wife, LaRue, and he was a father, which is why we also called him “Pappy”. The name George came about because of his Georgia roots. But his old age, a relative concept when you are 18, did not slow him down one little bit. For those of us who knew him, we can testify that George could hang with the best of them. He loved to have fun, party with his friends, and on occasion, he was known to have a few drinks.

I couldn’t even begin to remember all the missions we flew together, or all the lively experiences we shared. But there is one escapade that stands out more than others. For some reason, which I cannot remember, George and I got a 2 day in-country R&R in Danang. Of course, we immediately proceeded to see how much booze we could consume in 48 hours and we ended up at a cock fight in a “not so good neighborhood”. We were the only two participants that were not wearing pajamas and little, round bamboo hats. The betting was fast and furious and we were not winning any money. After a while George became suspicious that the locals were not playing fair with their new GI buddies. Not knowing any Vietnamese probably had something to do with it. Now George had a feisty side to him, which got especially exciting when he had his beer googles on, as he did this day. After he boldly threatened to kick all their dink asses, we had to quickly retreat down the alley as fast as we could run. Once the threat had passed we realized we were totally lost. And we were definitely not in friendly territory, and it was getting dark. About this time, George decides to pass out. After some time staggering the back streets of Danang holding George up, and at times carrying him over my shoulder, we bumped into some Marine MP’s, who were not too happy to make our acquaintance. But they did get us safely back to the secure area, which is where we were supposed to be in the first place, not roaming around Danang attending cock fights.

My friend George was a good solider, and even more importantly, he was a good man. He was dependable and he could be counted on to always have your back. I know this first hand. After meeting George, he was hard to forget. He was truly one of a kind. George and I parted when his time came to go home and I decided to extend. With him gone, along with other good Firebird buddies, my extension soon seemed to have been a bad choice. I sorely missed them all.

Some 40 years later, through Ron Seabolt’s efforts in locating me, I was reunited with George and other Firebirds. At my first reunion in Las Vegas, it was apparent age had changed our physical appearances, but the “brotherhood” remained the same; we were all 19 years old again. George will always be my good friend, and he is greatly missed.


From Vic Bandini – Firebird 99

George is probably the best known story teller this side of Saigon. He was undoubtedly the greatest and most outlandish teller of tales that ever crewed a Firebird gunship. George was not a fibber, but depending on the time of day, the occasion & audience, George could spin a tale like Wonder Bread – 12 ways!

He would tell tales of terrorizing the Vietnam countryside with his favorite weapon of choice. Telling tall tales to his Firebirds buddies about his daily exceptional exploits and adventures in the area of operations. Proudly pronouncing the power of ‘his’ gunship – Kaz’s Baby!

George loved being a Firebird and the Firebirds loved George. He acquired his nickname while serving with us in Vietnam – a nickname that is a testament to his beloved home state of Georgia.

You always knew where you stood with George, he either liked you or not. He minced no words about his opinions. Bad news if he didn’t like you, good to go if he did like you. A large part of George’s life was sharing his life with his Brothers – he understood the mental and physical wounds suffered from the aftermath of Vietnam. His life was in part devoted to helping others in that healing process and ‘what it was really like, what it meant to us and what the Firebirds mean to each other. George's sacrifices left him with profound wounds which he carried the rest of his life.

At each and every reunion he attended he brought with him a heart of loving concern for the rest of us. He did not seek to be comforted but to comfort and encourage the rest of us. He gave us a witness of love and faith which manifested itself in a cheerful spirit and an expression of confident amusement with us and this our last shared struggle together before we follow him. His witness was powerfully there for all who were willing to see it.

A true gentleman, a compassionate friend, a caring fellow Veteran. He will remain forever in the treasury of our memories – God bless you George, stay safe, your Firebird Brothers will never forget you!


From Stan Esckilsen - Firebird 96

JIM GEORGE HARDEMAN WAS A MAN WITH REMARKABLE RECALL.

Jim Hardeman, known as George to his fellow Firebirds, was a man who had remarkable recall of those events that occurred in the summer of 1969. He was a man that lived with a great deal of pain from injuries and illnesses, none of which would get him down. The night before attending the services at Arlington Cemetery for George Howes, George fell and injured his hip and was admitted to the hospital. At the hospital George made it very clear to his fellow firebirds that under no circumstances was he going to miss the memorial services. The next morning a group of Firebirds reported to the hospital and after a lengthy conversation with the hospital nurse, the Firebirds left for Arlington with George in hand.

George was a devoted family man, comrade and trusted friend. He will be missed by all.


From Firebird Gunner Jim Hiler’s wife Deb

As you know, my husband Jim doesn't remember things from Nam. He does have some Firebird Deer Camp stories:

George, Dale, and Dave Nottingham have been coming to Jim Hiler's farm in Ohio to deer hunt every season since 2000. George always came well prepared, bringing enough food to feed every deer hunter in OH! And, he did most of the cooking. George made quite an impression on the folks around here. Every hunting season Jim is asked by the area hunters (and community) if George is coming up to hunt with them. Even the game warden asks about George whenever Jim sees him. He got to know George the year he "caught" him with a gun while riding the golf cart, a definite no-no. The game warden let George go with a warning. George hated the cold, snowy, windy conditions we often have in OH in Dec. One year, he'd had enough and came back to the 'camp', got under his electric blanket with all his clothes on and slept for 2-3 hours. George is greatly missed by the Firebird Deer Hunting crew.


HUMOR

Unknown quote: I think congressmen should wear uniforms, sorta like NASCAR drivers so we could all see who their corporate sponsors are!

An elder former helicopter pilot and his wife had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen. The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, “Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it very highly.”

The other man said, “What is the name of the restaurant?”

The first man thought and thought and finally said, “What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know.... The one that's red and has thorns?”

“Do you mean a rose?”

“Yes, that's the one,” replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, “Hey Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?”

One too many hard landings!! Or maybe one too many “carrier” landing at the “O” club!

George Smith Quilt made by Fred West's wife Sandy
Gary Meegel Roger Farrell