LZ PUNTA GORDA

 September 15, 2002 LZ Punta Gorda was cleared for landing. Local troops prepared the LZ by organizing a Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Committee for a good ole fashion “Hangar Party”. The date was set for October 02, 2002 to coincide with the arrival of the Huey helicopter 091 “Shadow”.  

This is the final salute to the crew of the 091 "Shadow" which is taking the Comanchero spirit along the journey across America.

The Hangar Party committee members included:

Mike Goff, the VHPA- LZ Florida, Regional VP from Punta Gorda, Florida handled the press releases and provided the static display OH-6 Loach helicopter and wife Debi fielded the response of veteran invitees.

Kim Roberts, from Southwest Florida Aviation handled VIP lodging for civilian and dignitary invitees.

Bucky McQueen, President of the Florida International Airshow handled the procurement and service of food and refreshments. As well, Mr. McQueen fronted the money to purchase the event Tee shirts.

Bob McDonald, and his wife Helen displayed their fabulous display of Vietnam War era memorabilia.

Matt Fineman and wife Anita organized the security, made individual guest nametags and greeted attendees.

Greg Ward, an original member of the ITSOB traveling team, headed up the hangar setup and cleanup crew.

Angelo Favara and wife Carmen handled logistics and donation to cover expenses.

Bob “Carp” Carpenter handled the duties of Master of Ceremonies.

Rev. Sam Brooks provided a touching invocation.

Color Guards from the Charlotte County USMC League as well as American Legion Posts 103 and 110 did us proud in handling the evening ceremonies.

Kevin Richardson, from Hawley, MA. presented the Missing Man Ceremony, which were a few somber moments of remembrance to those soles that were missing from our evening activities.

Hilltop Singers, Linda Deshon from Nashville, TN. and Jeanie Gargano from Alva, FL. provided the special music that brought back those Vietnam memories of USO Shows.

Patti Highland, from Venice Florida lent us her voice with a wonderful rendition of Patsy Cline songs that brought heads turned toward the stage. Patsy Cline’s voice and songs live on with Patti Highland.

Bob Carr and wife Kathy created the “Hangar Party” invitations and the Tee-shirt design.  Along with a special friend of the Comanchero’s Courtnay Johnson from Seattle, WA staffing the LZ Punta Gorda Command Post from the Carr’s home bunker.

Kathleen Coppola represented Charlotte County Airport Authority and welcomed the ITSOB crew.  The Authority granting permission to utilize the Charlotte County Airport Facilities and giving Bob Carr a generous discount on the fuel bill.

Jim Kantor, owner of Eastern Avionics provided the use of his hangar for the first annual Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Hangar Party.

 

Those Vietnam Veterans present from A/101 Aviation on October 3, 2002

Bob Carr, Port Charlotte, Florida

John Lipski, Webster, Massachusetts

Marcus Goodell, Jupiter, Florida

Ron Freeman, Fort Myers, Florida

Don Kennedy, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Stephen “Smokey” Stover, Marietta, Georgia

Kevin Richardson, Howley, Massachusetts

Gary Lee Stamey, Chandler, North Carolina

Michael Pavisich, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Bob McDonald, Punta Gorda, Florida

Back seated in 502, Kevin Richardson

From Left Standing Michael Pavisich, Stephen “Smokey” Stover, John Lipski, Bob Carr, Gary Lee Stamey and Don Kennedy

Kneeling Bruce LeMoine, Pat Fries and Jim Palmersheim

 

ITSOB Crew makes somber visit The Remains of Five-O-Deuce

October 3, 2002, with the local news media gone to write their stories, ITSOB crew relocated to view the cannibalized carcass of the Five-O-Deuce. Parked in uncut grass at the Sheriff’s hangar and hidden amidst the remains of other helicopters, the Five-O Deuce sits ready and waiting its fate.  Thanks to Attorney Thomas Marryott access was reluctantly granted to photograph and record the vicious intention destruction of Five-O-Deuce. Once a flying Vietnam Memorial that brought healing, now sits destroyed by vindictive non-veterans that abused and destroyed her for political revenge. 

 

On this day, A/101 Aviation veterans proudly wearing shirts inscribed “I Stood In The Shadow Of The Blade”, all had flown in combat. Surrounding this Huey, the ITSOB film crew captures the renewed commitment of these men to bring the Five-O-Deuce back to life and allow it to continue its mission. The Five-O-Deuce may sit broken but her spirit lives in the soles of the men that had flown in her.  She will again serve as a Flying Memorial to the Vietnam Veterans.

 

Before the final parting for this day, the Veterans of the Five-O-Deuce gathered at her side handing off the vision to the fine crew of the 091 “Shadow.”  The vision of the mission will continue “In The Shadow Of The Blade”.

 

If that was not enough emotional for one day, the ITSOB crew has to push their luck and capture Bob Carr and John Lipski at the controls of the “Shadow”.  I was determined the fate of the Five-O-Deuce would live and fly again, but not with Bob Carr at the controls. With a little prodding from Bruce LeMoine and Jim Palmersheim a new life came to me as I sat at the controls of 091. Feeling a little naked without flight suit and gloves Bruce rolls up the throttle and look at me with a grin and states “You got it Bob”.  Well it wasn’t perfect or the best flying but it was enough to make me feel proud to have been selected as small part of this mission. To sit on the cargo floor of the Five-O-Deuce in a state of depression and shame and relocate to the left seat and controls of the “Shadow” had to be the biggest transfer of emotional feelings. I had a spirit in my sole and passion in my heart for this mission, and I left in the left seat of the “Shadow” to be captured by all those who are fortunate to share the ride. May they all depart as doers and go forth to keep the spirit and vision alive.

May God Bless You All.

 

Bob Carr

October 8, 2002

502 with Pat Fries- Dieter Kaupp - Sara Beal on the cameras

NEWS ARTICLE

10/2/2002

Vietnam vets to hold 'hangar party'

 Event dovetails with helicopter film Local Vietnam helicopter veterans will be welcoming their comrades home with a "hangar party" at the Charlotte County Airport tonight.

 

The event was organized in conjunction with a Texas filmmaker's project to gather first-hand stories about the veterans who flew Huey helicopters during the war. But the event will honor Vietnam veterans of all types who served in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, said Mike Goff, vice president of the Southwest Florida Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

 

About 200 veterans were expected to attend the event, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Eastern Avionics hangar. Due to security concerns, guests must make reservations by calling Goff at 639-1222 or by e-mail at michaeldgoff@hotmail.com

 

Organizers hope to make the event an annual gathering, he said.  "It's all about saying a 'welcome home,' that you don't need to live in a closet," added Robert Carr, a former Charlotte County Sheriff's captain who piloted Hueys in Vietnam in 1970-71. "We want to let them know we did what we did because we stood up and did what the country asked us to do."

 

The event was organized by the Southwest Florida chapter of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. The association nationwide has been coordinating events to coincide with the project by Arrowhead Films of Texas.  Arrowhead is producing a film titled "In the Shadow of the Blade" about the veterans who flew Huey helicopters in Vietnam.  The project calls for a restored Huey decorated with authentic Vietnam service markings to be flown to various sites so veterans can visit the bird and tell their stories.

 

Originally, the film was to feature the helicopter Carr flew in Vietnam. Carr acquired that very helicopter 30 years later for the            Sheriff's Office and restored it as a flying memorial in May 2000.  But that helicopter, dubbed the Five-Oh-Deuce, was later grounded for major repairs and subsequently stripped for spare parts.

 

The producer located another Huey, dubbed the 091 "Shadow," in Ozark, Ala. The helicopter began its tour Tuesday at Fort Rucker, Ala., and was to visit a veteran’s memorial in Pensacola before setting down for tonight's hangar party. "The helicopter is just a piece of iron," said Goff. "But we have found, by doing this, we are reaching out to the veterans who haven't healed from their experiences."

 

Goff, a real estate property appraiser, was shot down three times during the war as a member of the Bravo Troop of the 17th Calvary. "I was 19 and full of red, white and blue," he said. "The army gave us a $250,000 flying machine and the only rule was come back alive. We thought we were invincible and we flew that way."  He said tonight's event will remind veterans of the parties their squadrons might have held in Vietnam. Guests are planning to wear their Vietnam fatigues and the helicopter association will put memorabilia and helicopters on display.

 

"We would just stand everybody down and bring in buckets of beer and barbecue," Goff reminisced. Arrowhead is bringing in the Hilltop Singers of Nashville, a troupe that has performed for the USO with Bob Hope and other entertainers. Snacks and beverages will be provided by local sponsors, including event committee member Robert "Bucky" McQueen.

 

John Lipski, a helicopter test pilot for the Rhode Island National Guard, arrived Tuesday in Punta Gorda to attend the event. As an Alpha Company pilot in 1970, Lipski flew with Carr out of the Camp Eagle chopper base in Vietnam.  "Even if the helicopter wasn't flying in, this is going to be a great event," Lipski said. He recalled flying the 502 to Fort Campbell, Ky., with Carr in June 2000. For a lot of Vietnam veterans, the thought that a helicopter had been restored as a memorial to them triggered deep emotions, Lipski said.

You can e-mail Greg Martin at gmartin@sun-herald.com

By GREG MARTIN

© 2002 All rights reserved.

A division of Sun Coast Media Group Inc.

Publishers of the Sun Herald newspapers & Venice Gondolier newspapers.

 

Hilltop singers arrive at the party

 

NEWS ARTICLE

10/3/2002

Chopper no-show doesn't spoil vets' party

PUNTA GORDA -- Suppose they gave a helicopter party and everybody came -- except the chopper. The no-show of a Huey -- dubbed the 091 "Shadow" -- Wednesday             evening didn't keep about 200 old veterans from having a good time.

           

Some were sitting at long tables in the hangar used by Eastern Avionics International Inc. at the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, sipping beers and talking. A giant American flag covered one wall. A tiny "Little Bird" helicopter, a Hughes OH-6A, was perched atop a trailer in a corner. An aging Marine color guard stood pensively waiting to present the colors.

                

It was the first Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Party. The spur-of-the-moment event was sponsored by the Southwest Florida Vietnam Helicopters Association. They were coordinating the event to conform to Arrowhead Film & Video's fly-in of a Huey chopper that was expected to arrive at 8 p.m. Wednesday but never came.

 

The helicopter and the rest of the film crew are due to make an appearance today, however. Running behind schedule, the Huey spent the night in Lakeland.

The 'copter is promoting the Austin, Texas, production company's documentary film "In the Shadow of the Blade," about pilots who flew Hueys in Vietnam.

Pilots like W.B. Anderson, who flew for the Green Hornets in 1970-71, part of the 20th Special Operation Squadron that dropped recon teams in and brought them out. He flew a Huey UH-1P equipped with three mini-guns that could each fire 4,000 rounds a minute. He heard about the gathering at the last minute, thanks to his wife, and decided to drive up from Fort Myers and attend the affair.

                

There was also Steve Masak, who flew a Huey with the 119th Assault Helicopter Squadron in 1969-70 in 'Nam and Cambodia. He took 101 hits in three helicopters early on, but after that never took another enemy round in his chopper.

                

The mood turned somber during a "missing man" ceremony. A table was set with empty chairs and empty plates representing those who did not return alive from Vietnam. On the table were lemons, symbolizing the bitterness of the experience, and salt to "remind us of the tears that our families have shed," said Charlotte County Sheriff's Capt. Robert Carr. "It was a very, somber, very quiet moment," He said. "It was very emotional, a lot of tears in their beers."

                

The event also provided Carr with an opportunity to reunite with several members of companies he flew with in Vietnam, including pilots Marc Goodell and John Lipski. Carr said other veterans traveled from Ottawa, Canada, South Carolina and Massachusetts to attend the event.

 

"Members of the Air Show board volunteered as bartenders and waiters at the event," said Robert "Bucky" McQueen.  McQueen, who served from 1963-67 in a Strategic Air Command bomber squadron, pointed out that Air Show member retired Gen. Fred Buckingham and retired Navy Capt. Gene Geronomine also were veterans.

                

The Huey's telltale ''whomp, whomp, whomp'' rotor chop helped make the craft, officially the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a lasting icon of the Vietnam War. Like the Jeep in World War II, the Huey hauled troops and supplies, served as a mobile gun platform and evacuated the wounded -- doing it all in the air instead of on the ground. The Huey's unique sound inspired the name for the documentary             film being made about the chopper's sentimental journey around the country. Organizers say the purpose is to connect with everyone who was touched by the Vietnam War.

                 

After stops around Florida this week, the Huey will be flying on to Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, the Washington area and New Mexico through early November. The air odyssey began at Fort Rucker, Ala., where Army and Air Force helicopter pilots are trained. The first leg ended at Pensacola's ''Wall South,'' a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

                

Before the evening was over Wednesday at the airport, there would be song and camaraderie among the vets. Some wore dark blue 1st Cavalry hats with their distinctive shield of a gold patch with its black bar and horse's head. Others had hats reading "Vietnam Brotherhood" with the yellow Vietnam War campaign ribbon below.

                

"Everybody was real upbeat," said McQueen. "They were dressed in some of the uniforms of their companies. There were people from the Air Force, the Navy and the CIA, as well as the helicopter pilots. We had a real good cross-section of people."

                 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

By DON MOORE and GREG MARTIN

© 2002 All rights reserved.     

A division of Sun Coast Media Group Inc.

Publishers of the Sun Herald newspapers & Venice Gondolier newspapers.

  

Aging warriors standing in the Shadow of the Blade. Thirty years ago we were a band of brother that completed the WOC.  We lived together exposing are weakness and combining our strengths. Today we stand as brothers sharing the talk. 

June 2000, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  Bob, John and Marc stand proud next to the Five-O-Deuce. Bringing a significant part of the "Comanchero" legacy to Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division was a special honor for these three Comancheros.

 

NEWS ARTICLE

10/4/2002

Veterans greet special Huey

Vietnamese pilot among passengers

PUNTA GORDA -- As the Huey 091 "Shadow" landed Thursday morning at the Charlotte County Airport, the hearts of a group of veterans began beating as hard as the whop whop whop of the old chopper's blade.

 

The helicopter represents a flying memorial to those veterans who flew the Bell UH helicopters, nicknamed "Hueys," into combat some 30 years ago. The helicopter was flown to Charlotte County by Arrowhead Film Co. of Texas, which is touring the country to interview Huey pilots about their experiences.

                

The film is to be titled "In the Shadow of the Blade." Some may have been surprised to see a Vietnamese native disembark from the helicopter after it landed. But, Nguyen Duc Ky of Tampa, who boarded the 091 in Lakeland to ride along to Punta Gorda, piloted Hueys for the South Vietnamese Army.

 

Ky was trained in the U.S. by the U.S. Army, according to a yellowed military pilot certification he pulled from his pocket. "Emotions!" he said in broken English. "Make me remember of flying 'slicks.' I meet my old friends, helicopter friends. It reminds me of my missions before in Vietnam War. I'm feeling very proud, and very lucky." Ky, who works as a security guard for the state of Florida, said he fought the war "to the last bullet." Surrounded by North Vietnamese forces, he said he attempted to use his last bullet on himself, but a comrade, a female soldier fighting by his side, struggled for the gun.  It went off; the comrade was accidentally shot and killed, Ky said. He said he was captured moments later. The shot had drawn the enemy to his location.

                

Ky said he spent the next seven years in a Vietnamese prison camp. He was blindfolded and bound most of the time. He was released in a deal Vietnam struck with the United States and relocated to Tampa, he said. Ky is now a member of the Southwest Florida chapter of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

                 

Emotions also ran high for former American Red Cross recreation volunteer Susan McLean of Safety Harbor. McLean's eyes teared up as the 091 landed. "Just to hear it and smell it and feel that blast of sand in your hair; that's what it's about," she said.  McLean was flown in Hueys from Saigon out to remote firebases in 1970-71 to cheer up U.S. troops. She and other Red Cross volunteers led the soldiers in humorous games such as "flash-card baseball."

 

"They were just stupid little games of our own just to get them to smile and laugh for a little while and let them know they weren't forgotten," she said.                

 

Flying as co-pilot on Thursday's flight to Charlotte County was Mike Wyman also of Safety Harbor. Wyman flew helicopters and airplanes for the Army for 26 years, including tours in Vietnam. Wyman said the film project will allow the story of the helicopter pilots be told by the helicopter pilots -- not Hollywood.  "There's no way to really describe combat in a movie," he said.            "There's no way a film crew can capture the violence and devastation. "It's part of our heritage," he added. "Thirty years ago, you wouldn't have had this kind of celebration for our Vietnam veterans."

                

Wyman's son Dave, a young man who wants to fly Apache helicopters for the Army one day, flew as a passenger.  "Even though I was never there, I felt like I was part of it, hearing the chatter on the intercom, the camaraderie," he said. "It was a great experience to see my dad in the flight seat, pulling the stick. It was awesome."

                

The helicopter started its tour Tuesday in Fort Rucker, Ala., and has made several stops. As the helicopter approached one school, a man walking out of a             grocery store broke into a run, said Bob Baird, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who also flew on Thursday's flight.  "He jumped in his car and raced to the school to see the Huey," Baird said. "He had served in the infantry in Vietnam."  The crew plans to fly the helicopter throughout the southeastern states and to the site of the World Trade Center before heading to the Southwest later this fall, Baird said.

You can e-mail Greg Martin at gmartin@sun-herald.com

By GREG MARTIN

           

© 2002 All rights reserved.

A division of Sun Coast Media Group Inc.

Publishers of the Sun Herald newspapers & Venice Gondolier newspapers.

 

Your humble Webmaster was honored to receive a phone call from some wonderful friends that night during the “Passing of the Peach”.

Courtnay Johnson - I just wet my lips

Don Kennedy - This stuff will put you to sleep

Judy Kennedy - That's mighty fine wine

Kevin Gary and John - Wish you were here Richard Bittle

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