Local Vietnam vets want to refurbish Huey for monument

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BENNINGTON — John Miner, who was recently commended for his three decades of service to veterans, says he still has a few goals he hopes to achieve. Among those is to see a Vietnam War-era "Huey" helicopter installed at the Morse State Airport as a monument to those who served.

"This is still on my agenda," he said this week.

The 1968 Huey was acquired a couple of years ago by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 601, of which Miner is a past president.

But he said the decommissioned helicopter, which was converted for use as a medivac during the war and at U.S. military bases afterward, remains a ways from being restored enough to mount on a 10-foot-tall metal framework.

"It doesn't have to be in working condition," Miner said, and the Huey won't be reconditioned for flight.

But he said chopper blades and other exterior parts will have to found, and Miner has been hunting nationwide. He recently spent some time in North Carolina checking out potential parts sources for the once ubiquitous but now disappearing military helicopters, which have since been replaced by the Blackhawk models and others.

Few aircraft are as recognizable — both in appearance and in the familiar whup-whup-whup sound of its blades — as the Huey. Veterans who served during the Vietnam era and the general public have long been familiar with them because of the numerous films and documentaries about the war in which they appear.

Miner served two tours in Vietnam during the mid-1960s and often rode in Hueys, which he said were also used extensively for troop transport, capable of carrying eight to 10 soldiers, as well as for the evacuation of wounded.

The helicopter was donated by VVA Chapter 723 in Chester, Miner said. It had previously been used at a base in Texas and later for medical evacuation training at an Army Reserve base in Chester. When that base was moved to White River Junction, the craft was decommissioned.

It is a Model 68 UH-1V, built during the 1960s. Thousands of the Bell helicopters were built for the military. Originally designated the HU-1 model, they were nicknamed the "Huey."

Commended

Miner was honored last month during a surprise ceremony at the Vermont Veterans Home. He received the Vietnam Veterans of America Commendation Medal from the national organization for his work locally, as a regional director and on the national level with the VVA. And a resolution in his honor from the Vermont Legislature was presented by state Rep. Mary Morrissey of Bennington.

Miner also is the founder of the Veterans Outreach and Family Resource Center, which is located in the former Commandant's House on the Veterans Home grounds.

For information about the effort to refurbish the Huey, he can be reached at the center, 802-753-7720 or at 802-733-8576.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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