Vets Plan to Build Army Museum in Valley
November 10, 2005 -- Three decades after the end of the Vietnam War, many of its veterans still struggle with their memories and their service.
A group of Vietnam vets wants to build an Army aviation museum here in the Valley and the discovery of unique piece of aviation history will serve to honor those who didn't come home.
The "Huey" is an enduring symbol of the Vietnam War. More than 15,00 saw action there, logging nearly eight million flight hours.
In 1970, a 20-year-old Dudley Young was flying for the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. During a fierce firefight, his commanding officer was mortally wounded.
"The only one to die as a result of direct ground combat with the enemy was General Bond. This was his helicopter," said Young.
He's referring to a helicopter in which General Bond died in. The search for the helicopter would take Dudley Young all the way to Washington and the Secretary of State's office.
Using his aviation and Vietnam veteran contacts, Young learned the general's aircraft had been surplused to the war on drugs and was in a warehouse in Alabama.
"I just knew we had to write something to get her attention and get some action on it," said Young.
He wrote, asking Condoleeza Rice to help save this piece of history. A response from her assistant says Rice understood the historical significance and supports donating the helicopter to the fledgling museum.
Young has powerful support here at home in the Valley as well. "Basically, this (helicopter) is what we had in Vietnam. I was shot down the first day I flew my first mission," recalled Bill Richardson, from the 1106th AVCRAD.
Richardson, a current National Guardsmen, is still flying Hueys and is on the museum board.
So is Kingsburg teacher and veteran Steve Nagle, "It's for all those guys that didn't make it. I think that's what veterans are all about ... veterans helping veterans."
Until a location for the museum is finalized, when the general's Huey arrives, it will be stored in a warehouse being built for it.
That's where Leonard Federico will evaluate the war relic's condition. As a 19-year-old in the Air Force, his Vietnam years were stateside unloading coffins from transport aircraft.
"Then re-equip the airplanes with seats and put fresh troops on board and send them to Southeast Asia," explained Federico.
Jack Bakholdin is the project chief of maintenance. He's reluctant to share his thoughts, but as a conscientious objector and draftee, he served as a medic in Vietnam and gladly supports this mission.
Each of the veterans is still tied to that era and committed to honoring those who didn't come home.
This newest museum in the U.S. Army's 230 year history will take a lot of volunteers and donations to become a reality.
For more information on how to get involved in the Army Aviation Museum of the West, contact Dudley Young at (559) 322-0462 or (559) 977-4161.
It took a year and a half of detective work to find the helicopter and this group of Vietnam vets is determined to succeed in making the museum a reality, too.
- Chop shop and pot grow busted in Tulare County
- Rolling Fire burning in Madera County
- Federal agents search land linked to Hoffa case
- abcnews: Brokenhearted Hitman Testifies Against...
- OTRC: Daytime Emmys 2013 winners: Full list
- Grass fire closes Highway 99 in Fresno
- Cantaloupe producers start new safety program
- Apricot growers in California are expecting a big year
- Emergency crash landing at Fresno-Yosemite airport
- Zoo employees hold yard sale for conservation projects