Vietnam veteran pilots were in Washington, D.C. to share their helicopters and experiences with visitors at the National Archives building as part of the "Remembering Vietnam" exhibit during Veterans Day weekend.
The pilots in attendance were part of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA), which was founded in 1984 when 66 pilots held a reunion and voted to established the organization. Their mission is "to enhance and accredit the cohesiveness, esprit de corps, and traditions of valor of rotary wing aircrews that flew in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Era."
For many veterans, serving wasn't just a job. Jerry Seago, one of the founders of the VHPA said they founded the association "to bring a group of guys together that had the same experience."
Pilots are a brotherhood.
According to the VHPA over 40,000 helicopter pilots served in Vietnam, and more than 2,200 lost their lives during their service.
Last weekend, they shared their stories and gave a hands-on look at six of the helicopters the Vietnam veteran pilots flew.
Explaining what it was like flying the army helicopters they Huey and Cobra. When asked which was his favorite, Vietnam veteran pilot Peter Gotch said, "the Cobra was like the hot dog of it's day... But rewarding flying? You can't beat the slick, the Huey. The Huey did everthing, from saving people's lives, rescuing people, bringing people in, taking supplies in to people."
Gotch continued, "Our job was not to fly helicopters, our job was to support the people who were on the ground, whether it was to bring them ammunition, or food, or get them out if they were sick, picking people up on their last day in Vietnam and getting them back to the airports so they could go home."
When asked about their memories and experiences serving in Vietnam both Seago and Gotch choked up a bit.
"We still run into that a lot, with emotion. Even us," said Seago.
Gotch remarked, "There's a lot we don't tell people, that we are never going to tell people, but it's nice to bring people, to show them what we flew."
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