If I may, I'd like to tell y'all a story about a true American Icon.
The history of this Icon is a long and storied one that begins back in 1965 when her service to the nation began. Manufactured as a UH-1D with tail number 65-10091, she was purchased by the Army in August of 1966. The UH stood for "utility helicopter” which meant it was designed to perform multiple functions from combat, to transport, to medivac (affectionately these birds came to be simply called HUEYS), and in particular this one known as “Huey 091", this aircraft was built as a machine of War and by September of the same year, she went on to do what was asked of her. Much like many of your Father's, Son's, and other loved ones during that period of history, 091 was in Vietnam, as part of the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company, " the Robinhoods" and crewed by Ed Walsh. It was there that she became known as "091" because that's how we refer to an aircraft, using the last three of the serial number on the tailboom, kind of like a last name.
Her last combat mission ended poorly as she was totally destroyed in a crash brought about by enemy fire. Unlike those that were killed in action (KIA) or very seriously injured and retired, this aircraft was fixed up and restored to her original fighting condition and allowed to continue her service to the nation.
091 like so many of our veterans, moved on to different duty stations around the world. Units across the U.S. such as Ft. Sill, Ft. Stewart and then Ft. Rucker Alabama, the Aviation School for the U.S. Army. Late 1971 found her in the National Guard, then in September of '73 she was off for Germany.
While in Germany during 1974, she was crewed by Randy Perkins. She served with the 24th Engineering Group. HHQ at Sembach Air Base. She was mainly used to ferry VIP's. She has been upgraded to a UH-1H model by then and was freshly refurbished".
Now it was on to NASA and finally after 30 years she was retired to Ft. Rucker, Alabama and finished up a wonderful career, or so we thought!
The next chapter was with a small aviation museum at Meacham Field in Ft Worth, Texas not far from where everything started. The owners of the "Texas Air Command" museum purchased 091 and then flew her all the way from Ft Rucker to Fort Worth. They restored her as best they could with their limited resources and she was still very airworthy.
The FAA gave their blessings and she would go out once in a while and visit with her old Veteran friends, their children and any others that wanted to see, touch, or listen to history as it was talked about under her blades. There were Veteran's Day Parades, Memorial Day Fly over's, Fourth of July celebrations and numerous schools to visit plus her display duty at the museum.
This sort of service did not go unnoticed and so in 2002 Huey 091 was tasked to take on a leading role in a documentary film with and for the very people she had taken into and medevaced out of combat 34 years earlier. She gave an Academy award performance in the category of BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MACHINE. 091 became a rally point and a powerful healer of many Veterans and even their families as she finally allowed people to receive some type of closure to an unhealed wound, feelings of guilt of a story never told.
That was surely the last chapter, but our Nation called one more time. Now it was time to make that "Final Journey Home". Home would be at the National Museum of American History at 14th and Constitution Ave in Washington D.C.
In 2004, a team of veterans and interested civilians took this fully restored Vietnam war bird, “Huey 091", on a six week journey across the nation, part of which would require the help, the lift, from an old friend from the USAF Reserve, a C5 Galaxy Transport airplane, tail #171. She too was on her way to a museum.
The last chapter is still being written because 091 is still serving as she sits on the third floor of the Smithsonian's "Behring Center" in the "Museum of American History" as the largest artifact in the 'Price of Freedom, Americans at War" exhibit. She will continue to educate the world on what the Price of Freedom really costs and how Americans have responded in a time of War.
Since that historic journey, Huey 091, the helicopter whose name we proudly carry, has been resting at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. There she will stay for at least 30 years as the centerpiece –and largest single artifact–of the museum’s “Price of Freedom” exhibit, a tribute to the men and women who so bravely served, many paying the ultimate sacrifice, others paying with disabling injuries, when our nation called for their service during the Vietnam War.
Huey 091's historic journey was captured in thousands of photographs and hours of videotape. These materials will be edited into various education modules which will be added to the curricula of children from elementary school through high school. This history of service and sacrifice to our country will be presented in a way not found in today’s textbooks. Through the efforts of the America's Huey 091 Foundation, these educational modules will be carried by hundreds of school districts across our nation.
Beginning in 2004, Huey 091 took on another major endeavor, helping those of our returning service-members whose injuries have cost them their mobility and independence. By providing state of the art mobility devices like the iBOT Mobility System, the Levo C3, Mobility Extreme X8 and other devices, America's Huey 091 Foundation has been able to help dozens of veterans regain their equality, independence and dignity.
CWO Larry Shatto (USA, Ret.)
Visit www.americashuey091.com for many more stories and photos of 091's journey.