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Membership Notes, March/April 2020

Santa Ana, California, Chapter 1024:
A Huey for Healing


Santa, Ana, California, Chapter 1024 has been on the move, procuring an UH-1 helicopter, starting restoration, and bringing it to Vietnam veterans and the local Vietnamese community. Procuring a helicopter, the inspiration of Chapter 1024 President Dennis Phelps, took years and is just beginning to bear the fruit of the healing that he envisioned. Whatever donations we receive as a result of our helicopter will enable us to take care of veterans’ needs. When asked about the cost of the helicopter, we say it’s the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and a quarter of a million South Vietnamese ARVNs. The helicopter belongs to us all.

In January alone the helicopter was at the Vietnam War Memorial at Freedom Park in Westminster, Calif.; spent the weekend at the Museum of the Republic of Vietnam in Westminster; and took part leading the Tet Parade 2020 in Garden Grove, Calif.

On the first Sunday of every month at the Vietnam War Memorial in Westminster, American veterans and their Vietnamese brothers-in-arms hold a prayer vigil to remember those who paid the ultimate price. American veterans arrive early to set up chairs and prepare for the event. They stay long after the vigil, sharing and healing. 

Bringing the helicopter to the Memorial has been extremely important to those whose lives were altered by the Vietnam War. The national anthems of both countries are played. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung by a beautiful Vietnamese woman wearing an ao dai. “Taps” is played, incense lit and

offered, and refreshments shared. Then pictures are taken in front of the helicopter. The UH-1 helicopter evokes memories for all veterans. The chapter has named her “Life Saver”—dedicated to helping veterans return home.

The subsequent weekend Chapter 1024 parked the helicopter at the MRVN. This provided a healing process for both sides. Thousands of pictures were taken by members of the Vietnamese community throughout the weekend. Many VVA members ended up in pictures with Vietnamese families; others were approached by South Vietnamese veterans and saluted and thanked.

The Vietnamese people appreciate the sacrifices of American veterans, and they are beyond thankful for them coming to Vietnam to helping fight against the spread of communism and to keep their people free.

Touring the museum was a Vietnam veteran who had spent two tours piloting a helicopter up and down the Mekong Delta. He met a former South Vietnamese naval officer who had patrolled the Delta. When he learned about this helicopter pilot’s tours, he bowed to him repeatedly, saying he saved his life many times when he had been fired upon by the VC. You could see the thankfulness and healing from both men. This was not the greeting American veterans received when we returned home. Another American Vietnam veteran was given a personal tour and felt totally welcomed.

On Sunday, January 26, Chapter 1024 towed the helicopter with three Humvees and the Patriot Guard leading the way to the Garden Grove Tet Parade. The response was overwhelming. Again, thousands of pictures were taken of the helicopter, along with thousands from the Vietnamese community thanking the American Vietnam veterans and wishing them a happy new year: “Chuc Nam Mung Moi.”

Forty-five years after the fall of Saigon, the Vietnamese people have assimilated into the American society, making America better for their being here.

Robert L. Harrison is the vice president of Santa Ana, California, Chapter 1024.





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University of Florida Smathers Libraries
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Brooklyn VAMCDedication in Brooklyn: New Memorial at the VAMC.   Chapter 862Honor Guard Drill:
Beaver County Chapter 862.
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