This is the speech given at Ft Rucker when they retired the last Huey:CW4 Lawrence Castagneto, 17 May 2011"Thank you Sir"As a Vietnam Veteran Army Aviator, I would like to thank everyone for comingto this special occasion, on this to be honest...very sad day, the end of anera. An era that has spanned over 50 years. The retirement of this grand oldlady "OUR MOTHER" ... the Huey.I would like to thank, MG Crutchfield for allowing me to speak at this eventand try to convey in my own inadequate, meager way.. what this aircraftmeans to me and so many other Vietnam veterans.First a few facts:It was 48 yrs ago this month that the first Huey arrived in Vietnam withunits that were to become part of the 145th and the 13th Combat AviationBattalions; both units assigned here at Ft Rucker today. While in Vietnam,the Huey flew approximately 7,457,000 combat assault sorties; 3,952,000attack or gunship sorties and 3,548,000 cargo supply sorties. That comes toover 15 million sorties flown over the paddies and jungles of Nam, not toinclude the millions of sorties flown all over the world and other combatzones since then ....what a amazing journey.... I am honored and humbled tohave been a small part of that journey.To those in the crowd that have had the honor to fly, crew, or ride thismagnificent machine in combat, we are the chosen few, the lucky ones. Theyunderstand what this aircraft means, and how hard it is for me to describemy feelings about her as a Vietnam combat pilot.... for she is alive... hasa life of her own, and has been a life long friend.How do I break down in a few minutes a 42 year love affair, she is as much apart of me, and to so many others,,,as the blood that flows through ourveins. Try to imagine all those touched over the years ...by the shadow ofher blades.Other aircraft can fly overhead and some will look up and some may not; oreven recognize what they see but, when a Huey flies over everyone looks upand everyone knows who she is... young or old all over the world sheconnects with all.To those that rode her into combat... the sound of those blades causes ourheart beat to rise... and breaths to quicken... in anticipation of seeingthat beautiful machine fly overhead and the feeling of comfort she brings.No other aircraft in the history of aviation evokes the emotional responsethe Huey does... combat veteran's or not... she is recognized all around theworld by young and old, she is the ICON of the Vietnam war, U.S. ArmyAviation, and the U.S. Army. Over 5 decades of service she carried ArmyAviation on her back, from bird dogs and piston powered helicopters with asecondary support mission, to the force multiplier combat arm that ArmyAviation is today.Even the young aviators of today, that are mainly Apache pilot's, Blackhawkpilot's, etc., that have had a chance to fly her will tell you there is nogreater feeling, honor, or thrill then to be blessed with the opportunity toride her thru the sky... they may love their Apaches and Blackhawks, butthey will say there is no aircraft like flying the Huey " it is special".There are two kinds of helicopter pilots: those that have flown the Huey andthose that wish they could have.The intense feelings generated for this aircraft are not just from theflight crews but, also from those who rode in back ...into and out of the"devils caldron". As paraphrased here from "Gods own lunatics", JoeGalloway's tribute to the Huey and her flight crews and other Infantryveterans comments:Is there anyone here today who does not thrill to the sound of those Hueyblades?? That familiar whop-whop-whop is the soundtrack of our war...thelullaby of our younger days it is burned in to our brains and our hearts. Tothose who spent their time in Nam as a grunt, know that noise was always agreat comfort... Even today when I hear it, I stop...catch my breath...andsearch the sky for a glimpse of the mighty eagle.To the pilots and crews of that wonderful machine ...we loved you, we lovedthat machine.No matter how bad things were...if we called ... you came... down throughthe hail of green tracers and other visible signs of a real bad day off to abad start. I can still hear the sound of those blades churning the fierysky ....To us you seemed beyond brave and fearless... Down you would come tous in the middle of battle in those flimsy thin skin -chariots ...into thestorm of fire and hell,.....we feared for you, we were awed by you. We thought of you and thatbeautiful bird as " God's own lunatics"... and wondered ...who are thesesmen and this machine and where do they come from ...... Have to be "GodsAngels".So with that I say to her, that beautiful lady sitting out there, from meand all my lucky brothers, that were given the honor to serve their country,and the privilege of flying this great lady in skies of Vietnam - Thank youfor the memories...Thank you for always being there...Thank you for alwaysbringing us home regardless of how beat up and shot up you were..., ThankYou!!!!.You will never be forgotten, we loved you then..... we love you now... andwill love you till our last breath ...And as the sun sets today, if you listen quietly and closely you will hearthat faint wop wop wop of our mother speaking to all her children past andpresent who rode her into history in a blaze of glory ...she will be sayingto them: I am here... I will always be here with you.I am at peace and so should you be ... and so should you be.
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