Alabama veterans take to the skies in Vietnam helicopter

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ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — In Baldwin County, The Friends of Army Aviation Ozark took people on flights in a Vintage Vietnam UH-1 Huey Helicopter Saturday. For some veterans taking to the skies, it was an experience they never knew they’d get again.

Huey Crew Chief Tom Arts said, “It was the helicopter war, that’s basically how everybody was moved around. Everybody had some kind of connection with this Huey.”

The Huey was one of the most popular helicopters used in the Vietnam war, and it’s one remembered by those who served in it. Frank Kostyra served as a 1st Lieutenant and Commissioned Officer. He said, “Landing that UH-1H which you were just on, on the deck of the USS Clarke Destroyer in the South China Sea.” Kostyra said that’s one of the most memorable flights he took a Huey on.

He said, “I was bringing there three months worth of mail. I guess a lot of Dear John letters, but we were treated like gods because back then there’s no cell phones no communication with the loved ones at home.”

Getting to go on a Huey again brings back memories for Kostyra. He said, “We got shot at every single day in our missions and I never took a hit, so I had a good co-pilot.”

That’s one of the reasons why Friends of Army Aviation takes people up in their chopper. Arts said, “Show people what we did in Vietnam, especially to Vietnam vets. A lot of them have tried to explain to their families for 45 or 50 years what it was like to fly in a Huey.”

But the flights wouldn’t have taken off without a little help. The City of Orange Beach tells us when it was looking for sponsors to help with the cost, they didn’t have to look very long. 

Owner of Ready Arm Defend, Jude McCoy said, “I’m also a veteran as well, and we live in the greatest country in the world in my opinion, and anytime you can give back to those who are making this country free, it’s just an important thing to do. “

Kostyra said he’s happy he could take one more ride in the old bird. He said, “They took mine and a lot of the ones that I flew when we left, we were pushed out of I Corps because the enemy coming in, and they bulldozed them into the ocean.” 

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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