ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — The moment you get on a Huey helicopter, it’s something that is hard to forget. Vietnam veteran Donald Burch knows the feeling all too well.
“The distinctive sound, the way it rattles so bad. It gets infused in you, and you can’t get it out. You get a chance to get on one, you’re gonna do it,” Burch said.
For the next couple of days in Orange Beach, the Friends of Army Aviation are offering rides on the legacy aircraft but not the kind of ride you might expect, according to pilot and president of the organization Doc Holladay.
“The only time you will see that aircraft straight and level is when you’re hovering. The rest of the time, it’s turning and banking, moving up and down. It’s a ride of a lifetime is what we like to tell folks,” Holladay said.
It has been described as a roller coaster ride at 2,000 feet in the air, but it also is something else.
“It’s a healer,” says Holladay. “That aircraft heals. It provides closure to Vietnam veterans and their families.”
“It was great,” Burch said after his flight. “Now, if we don’t have flashbacks, we’ll be good.”
“It’s been a long time,” said Joe Collins still smiling from his flight. “Got a lot of hours in a Huey sitting in the back where I was sitting and love it.”
At almost every one of these events, the past and present reunite.
Holladay and Collins were stationed together during the conflict. “He saw my name and said, ‘I know you,'” Holladay said. “It’s amazing.”
It was a reunion 50 years in the making. “I didn’t know he was going to be here,” Holladay said. “Me too,” adds Collins. “I’m glad I got to see him after all these years.”
A trip back in time and a helicopter ride bringing back old memories and making new ones.
The Friends of Army Aviation are at The Wharf in Orange Beach near the Event Center. They are scheduling flights from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 2 and 3. Flights are $70 per person. For more information, you can go to their website here.