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Old war bird’s final resting place, with warriors in transition

Photo: Gilbert Telles Jr. , Fort Bliss
Monday, May 13, 2013 - 10:35pm

An old war bird finds new life as a beacon of inspiration for men and women recuperating from scars of war. Wounded Warriors past and present attended the dedication ceremony close to a year ago.

Emotions were evident at the ceremony, especially from Vietnam era veterans who well remember the distinctive whoop, whoop, sound of its rotors, meaning that relief was coming. As a medical evacuation platform during the war, it helped save countless lives by facilitating and expediting the evacuation of those injured at the battle front to life saving medical treatment.

Chief Warrant Officers 2 Dennis Wayman and Clint Lopez, both of the Warrior Transition Battalion, and Hector Hernandez, transportation coordinator, Warrior Transition Battalion, saw the project from start to finish at various stages of acquisition, transportation and restoration of the “Huey”.

Motivated to leave a lasting gift, a labor of love, to those that gave some or all in service to their country. 

“My part was in doing this for … the wounded warriors that I see every day, (something) that will be there forever,” said Hernandez.
Wayman’s contribution was in the acquisition and research of obtaining the transfer of the Huey to Fort Bliss and the WTB as a permanent display at the Headquarters building.

“It’s probably the most popular aircraft in the Army inventory,” said Wayman. It’s certainly my favorite and it’s also the (most) widely used MedEvac aircraft since the Blackhawk.”

Lopez’s involvement with the restoration project was in the details of getting the decals right for the authenticity of the display. This was accomplished with connections he has with Soldiers from his home station in Albuquerque, N.M., who acquired the “Red Cross” decals from a company in California. A volunteer from Las Cruces, Paul Herrera came to do the appliqué of the decals on his own time, as a labor of love for the wounded warrior memorial.

“A lot of people came forward and said, ‘I’d like to help,’ which is a pleasant surprise,” said Lopez.

One person that all three can agree on implicitly is their admiration for Angel Gonzalez. Gonzales at that time was a 16-year-old Americas High School student and Navy Junior ROTC cadet, who found out about the project and was moved to help in commemoration to both his grandfathers’ service. His paternal grandfather served in the Army during WWII and his maternal grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War.

Gonzalez enlisted the help of his brother Raul to donate space and access to tools to work on the restoration at his transmission shop. This act was instrumental in getting the project going, without the proper site and tools the restoration would have been next to impossible to do.

Another example of the community spirit in honoring Soldiers was the donation of resources to transport the Huey to the shop and back after restoration. Richard Barajas’ towing company provided the flatbed trailer and crane to load and offload the Huey there and back to its final resting place.

Gabriel Cortez donated many evenings and weekends to work on the restoration, also out of personal motivation to give something back to Soldiers. So many stories of people just wanting to give, such as a Vietnam veteran walking by the shop as the Huey was being offloaded and asking what was going on. Upon explanation of the project, he volunteered his time on the spot, no questions asked.

It is almost a year since the project was completed, and as Hector Hernandez stated “I’m always looking for ways to make the display better.”
His next step is in putting bricks around the display with the names of people that family or friends want to honor for their service.

If you would like to purchase a brick or for information, contact Hector Hernandez at hector.a.hernandez1.civ@mail.mil, or call 838-4861. 

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