It’s been three years in the making, but helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War will have their own monument at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and Congress came together for the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Monument Act, directing the secretary of the Army to place a 2 1/2-foot by 2 1/2-foot monument at the cemetery in Virginia. It will be placed in Section 35 along Memorial Drive, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam, helped spearhead the campaign for the memorial.
In April 2014, Hesselbein, legacy committee chairman of the pilots association, and other members went to Arlington Cemetery to discuss donating a tree. Instead, one of the historians suggested donating a monument.
The association members completed the lengthy application process before the end of 2014, but the cemetery’s advisory committee was deadlocked 3-3 on the proposal.
The tiebreaker went to then-Army Secretary John McHugh, who decided to not move forward with the monument.
Time magazine in 2016. “On a very tough decision, that philosophy and unwritten rule was the determining factor.”
McHugh said the association could donate the tree, as originally intended, but Hesselbein said just having the tree marker didn’t give justice to those who lost their lives.
introduced the bipartisan legislation. Companion legislation was introduced on the House side by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.
Baldwin told Army Times that she was moved by Hesselbein’s stories of his own experiences during Vietnam, including “stories of his friends and comrades that he still knows and those that he lost,” she said.
A monument that honors the Vietnam-era helicopter crews is important not only for family members who visit Arlington Cemetery to see their loved ones, but also for those who aren’t directly impacted.
“It’s a teachable moment,” she said. “It gets people involved and gets…