On any given day, a group of energetic young people board the aircraft. After they have properly stowed their belongings, they take their seats and await departure. They catch a glimpse of the pilot and notice that he is a distinguished looking gray-haired man. They feel that they are in good hands. Just another routine commercial flight, right?
The foregoing scene is played out on any given day in Iraq, as infantry troops climb aboard the UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters that are being piloted by men like Chief Warrant Officers De Wayne Browning and Randy Weatherhead, both of whom are grandfathers and who were flying combat missions in Vietnam before most of their current passengers were born. Link.
They, like many other Vietnam Vets serving in Iraq, are members of Guard Units that were activated to serve in Iraq and who are serving with distinction. Having fought in Vietnam provides them with an interesting perspective on flying combat missions in Iraq:
“There was a lot more action in Vietnam than there is here,” says Chief Warrant Officer Herbert Dargue, 57, of Brookhaven, N.Y. But the danger in Iraq is higher for those who are shot down but survive. “There’s no such thing as a POW,” he says, referring to the terrorists’ penchant for executing Westerners.
“The enemy in Iraq has ‘absolutely no value’ for life,” Dargue says, who flew Huey helicopters in Vietnam from June 1968 to June 1969.
Chief Warrant Officer Browning, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam for rescuing a crew from another helicopter that had been brought down by enemy fire, doesnâ€™t just fly helicopters in Iraq. In his spare time, he does volunteer work at a nearby childrenâ€™s home.
Quite simply, I am in awe of these men, and men like my friend (and now Master Sergeant) Lou, who made it through the Vietnam War in one piece and who again answered the call to serve in Iraq.
Damned fine people.