By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On July 28, about 20 people gathered in the rain at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport to welcome a police escorted helicopter to Gadsden.
According to Patriots Association judge advocate Rick Vaughan, the helicopter is a 1963 Model Huey, also referred to as a UH-1B, that was in the 218th aviation group that served during the Vietnam war, by supporting special forces. The helicopter will be placed on a pedestal on display in Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park.
The Huey helicopter was purchased from a seller in Warsaw, N.Y., who was offering a good price. The Patriots Association had been searching for a helicopter to display in Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park for about 10 years.
Vaughan said that the Patriots Association is trying to procure something from every era of conflict in which the United States has been involved, in order to honor veterans from each era.
Vaughan said that the Patriots Association is not yet sure whether or not the helicopter was involved in any missions with Ola Lee Mize, a local recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1953. The association is working on procuring the helicopter’s logbook to determine whether Mize came in contact with the helicopter.
However, Vaughan, who considered Mize a close friend, said that the helicopter does not need to be connected to Mize, only Vietnam.
“To a Vietnam veteran, there is no sound like a Huey,” said Vaughan.
Vaughan, who is a Vietnam veteran, said that the sound of a Huey brings up both good and bad memories. The helicopters were used to evacuate wounded soldiers and were equipped with guns to support ground forces.
The Patriots Association is currently working on a plan to build the base for the helicopter’s display. Vaughan said that once the base is made, the helicopter could be mounted in as little as 30 days.