YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A piece of U.S. History touched down in York County Saturday afternoon, part of an effort to keep the legacy of Vietnam War veterans alive.
People at the Newberry Commons Shopping Center got to see a Vietnam War-era “Huey” helicopter in action. The helicopter landing was part of a partnership between Red Land Community Library and the Liberty War Bird Association.
More than 50 years after flying real missions in Vietnam, the “Huey” helicopter landed in the parking lot of the shopping center.
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“Keeping the history of these helicopters alive,” Michael Caimi, president of the Liberty War Bird Association, said.
The “Huey” is piloted by Caimi and other members of the Liberty War Bird Association. The group spent three years and $600,000 restoring it to flying status by 2018.
“It’s been a long road, I can assure you that,” Caimi said. “We basically took the helicopter apart.”
Caimi said his mission is about educating the public about the aircraft’s history, but more importantly, it is about honoring the soldiers for whom the “Huey” is more than just a helicopter.
“We work on trying to get the helicopter in front of as many Vietnam veterans as possible as well as the general public. What we’re looking to accomplish is keeping the legacy alive of our Vietnam veterans,” he said. “A vehicle for reconnecting the Vietnam veterans with their history.”
Caimi is trying to reach veterans like Richard Nordstrom, one of many who came out to see the helicopter touch down Saturday.
“It’s kind of nice to be here to see,” Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom served as a combat pilot in Vietnam, and he spent hundreds of hours flying “Huey” helicopters just like the one he saw Saturday.
“Combat assaults, you know, where you see the guys landing and the troopers jumping off,” he said.
At 18, Nordstrom enlisted to join the military.
“I wasn’t going to make it out of the draft, so I enlisted for something and got flight school,” he said.
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He spent a year in flight school, a challenge in itself before heading overseas. Nordstrom spent a year flying combat missions in Vietnam. He said he was, “Scared all the time.”
“People are shooting at you,” he said.
The war and even is return home isn’t something he remembers fondly.
“In fact, when I got back to San Francisco, the hippies were spitting on us,” Nordstrom said. “It wasn’t a good time apparently in our history.”
Those memories are exactly why Caimi said he keeps bringing the “Huey” to veterans.
“They get to see this helicopter in a welcoming environment,” he said. “That’s the healing that we’re looking to accomplish when we bring this helicopter to events.”
Nordstrom said despite the tough memories from the war, he would love to go up and fly again, but the Liberty Birds are not allowed to take people up on rides just yet. They are still working on getting authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration for that.