Vietnam war helicopters denied on Memorial Day

May 26, 2008 8:49:10 PM PDT
As three restored U.S. Army helicopters from the Vietnam War flew into RDU International Airport Memorial Day, Veteran Bob Krzynowek of Cary said, "It brings back a lot of bad memories." But that didn't stop him from taking several pictures. "We were on them at least 3 or 4 times a week," he said.

Veteran Pilot Joe Versace of Garner snapped away with his camera too.

He said he flew every day while on his one year tour from June 1969-1970.

"These things took care of us," he said. "You look at them and the first thing I look for is one of the squares [of metal] over [the body] because that was probably a bullet hole that they patched up."

The Dustoff Medevac, dramatically increased the survival rate of wounded soldiers in combat by being able to get them to a hospital within an hour.

The UH1B gunship provide protection in the air as the Dustoff's picked up injured soldiers, it also helped protect soldiers on the ground.

The OH58 scoutship helped scout out the enemy on the ground.

The restored aircraft are kept at the Wings and Rotos Air Museum in Murrieta, California. For more than a year veterans and volunteers have been securing the proper paperwork to fly them over the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.

The mission was being called: Flying Thunder.

It was expected to coincide with Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle ride of rememberance for veterans.

At the last minute, Washington said no because the area is part of the no fly zone.

One volunteer pilot tells Eyewitness News that the aircraft are now registered with the FAA and considered civilian aircraft. "If they let us fly there, other civilians would want to as well, like movie producers and others," Larry Clark said.

The denial upset Versace of Garner.

"As it stands right now I have letters that's going out to politicians," he said. "I think its wrong. Flying Thunder is here to honor the veterans not the politicians and its always the politicians that squashes things."

Clark was upset too.

"It was very disheartening for me personally because I got friends down there, their names are on the wall," he said. "I wanted to honor them by flying over the wall and making that Huey blade sound that every veteran understands and knows and we weren't able to do that." He still hopes to do it one day. Clark and other veterans will keep fighting for the opportunity, knowing some things are worth fighting for.


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