Rattler/Firebird Association



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.”

“Like the book said, we may be through with the past but the past is not through with us!”

"Veteran" It’s not that I can and others can’t. It’s that I did and others didn’t!


In a previous newsletter the question was posed, “On the aircraft daily forms on which the crew is listed, there were four places listed for the crew members. They were: AC, PP, CE and G. Everyone knows AC was the aircraft commander, CE stood for Crew Engineer (or crew chief) and G was for the gunner. What did the PP stand for? I’m sure it didn’t stand for peter pilot!” Bill Di Dio offered that it stood for “practice pilot”. That’s about as cute as peter pilot. Speaking of Bill Di Dio, he runs a military memorabilia business called LZNam (www.lznam.com). Bill served with us in 1968-69. Bill has helped our Association scores of times. He deserves our business and offers discounts to unit members.


*See the Tommie James story in this edition


Once again, a wonderful reunion of all the Rattlers and Firebirds and their support troops has been completed. To hell with Covid. It knocked us back in 2020, but not down.

There were eighty of our men in attendance. Five of these had never attended our reunion and I heard nothing but positive remarks from them (and everyone else) about this event. An anonymous donor had established in the past that a “bounty” will be paid to all first timers from now on. This amounted to $100 this time and I am assured the amount will not fall below this number in the future. Got someone you’d like to see at a reunion? Mention this “bounty” to them.

Jim Gibbs (WO 67-68) had once again donated a DVD detailing operations in the Chu Lai area. This was an updated version of his earlier work and was free for the taking.

The Ladies Meeting on Thursday afternoon was very well attended. The $50 drawing prize went to Julie Wells, Mike Hansen’s daughter.

After four newsletter notices about being at the Memorial Service before 8:30 am, everyone was seated by 8:20. Thank you for this. Also an item that deserves notice is the very fine printing work for our Memorial Service and banquet programs furnished by our Chaplin Eric Kilmer. My personal thanks go to him as our spiritual leader.

Several relatives of our deceased members were in attendance for the entire reunion. Roger Howell, brother of KIA Randall Dumon Howell attended his first reunion. Also present was JoAnne Esckilsen, widow of Stan Esckilsen, Deb Hiler, widow of Jim Hiler and MaryLou Crosby, sister of KIA Herbert Charles Crosby.

Our business meeting was a time to replace two members of our board of directors. Doug Hopkins (OF 66-67) and Gene Waldrip (EM 69-70) had completed five years on the board because of the Covid. Term limits keep us with a healthy turnover on the board. The two new members are Paul Teelin (WO 66-67) and Greg Arndt (EM 69-70). Both are good men as were all the others. Don Lynam will continue on the board for two more years.

The rest of the board consists of Ron Seabolt (EM 66-67) - National Director, Johnnie Hitt (OF 69-70) - Deputy National Director and Chuck Carlock (WO 67-68) – Secretary/Treasurer.

At our Saturday night banquet, the Firebirds performed yeomen’s work with their Honor Guard entrance. Former POW Jim Pfister carried the POW flag. Vic Bandini, our Reunion Committee Chairman, did fine work as the emcee of the event. Several of our men looked VERY dapper in their Army dress uniforms. Please don’t stop!

Near the end of our meal, the raffle drawing took place. The first winner was Terry Igoe who took home a $200 gift card. The second winner was Alex Cruz (the son of Chico Marcano) who chose a tail rotor bracelet worth $700. Kerry “Little Mac” McMahon took home the second bracelet offered. Dolly Freeman (wife of Wendell Freeman) took home a $100 gift card. James Malone chose a three foot tall metal Rattler emblem donated by Kay Nave (the widow of Spencer Nave). Paula O’Quinn (wife of David O’Quinn) chose a painting entitled “Flying High” which had been painted and donated by Ed Maryliw. The next winner was Vivian Shearer, a guest of John May, who took home a Franklin Mint Vietnam Veteran Commemorative Knife valued at $200 donated by Bill Di Dio of LZNam. Rick Cronin selected a bottle of “Rotor Head Red” wine donated by Frank Anton. Deb Hiler (widow of Jim Hiler) picked a framed antique Army Flag. The final item was a bottle of wine donated by Kilfred Walley taken by Matt Patterson (grandson of Chuck Carlock).

The “Jesus Nut award, given to the person who traveled the longest distance to get to the reunion, was won by Bob Wade of Sunnyside, WA. There are no repeat winners of this award. Second place was Bruce Kelly.

The “Unsung Hero Award” was awarded to John Reis, a prop and rotor and powertrain mechanic from the ’66-’67 era. Our “Rattler Legend Award” was presented by Don Profitt to his gunner, Larry “Smitty” Smith, who flew with the first platoon from July 1966 to October 1968, twenty seven months of flying behind that right M-60. During his tours, Smitty was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and 29 Air Medals with three “V” devices for valor. An entire year’s worth of Air Medals are missing from his DD214.

Chad Robichaux gave an inspiring message as our guest speaker. Chad is the founder of The Mighty Oaks Foundation which has helped thousands of veterans. You can access this at: www.MightyOaks Programs.org.


The following three conditions were added to the presumptively recognized list by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. Note that the addition of these conditions were authorized by Congress and signed by the president instead of the normal procedure of being added by the VA. Because of this, there could be some time lag before the VA officially recognizes these conditions, however, any compensation paid by the VA should be retroactive to the date of the original claim. For this reason, if you suffer from any of these, you should file a claim immediately.