CARROLL, Iowa — This week there has been a Vietnam era helicopter in the skies over the Carroll area. The group Friends of Army Aviation has been flying the helicopter and providing rides, not only to Vietnam veterans, but members of families, and the general public. The non-profit is able to keep the old aircraft flying through donations, and selling tickets to ride for $80 a piece.
“The whole objective was to try to take care of veterans,” said Tom Aretz, of Friends of Army Aviation. “To give a chance to recoup a little bit especially the Vietnam veteran and it’s quite a healing tool that we have.”
The aircraft has seen a fair amount of Vietnam veterans taking flight with them. One was Larry Heithoff, of Templeton. His Huey helicopter was shot down by enemy fire 50 years ago, he has not flown in this type of aircraft since.
“We were flying 40 helicopters in formation, you can hear on the intercom talking about no gun ships, we didn’t go with gunships,” said Heithoff. “So we went in with no cover basically did a shot us out of the sky, a lot of guys got killed on that landing, I got wounded fortunately we had the best medical doctors and nurses in the world.
Heithoff said he was glad he decided to come on this flight. Some of the pilots with the helicopter were comparing notes with Larry. They found they had experienced many of the same places during their tours as well.
“Growing up, he’d tell me the stories of what he did, I was extremely proud of what he did and what he gone through,” said Chad Heithoff, Larry’s son. “I got to share little bit of that today that experience with him, and I can imagine I think it was probably trying to be in his head today and then trying to imagine what he was going through when I was 19 year old kid.”
Chad Heithoff served in the Air Force.
“My Dad wouldn’t let me join the Army, or Marines,” said Chad. He convinced his Dad that taking this flight in Carroll would be a good thing.
“It is a healing process needs something that freedom to do it and the last time he did it wasn’t the best experience, so here we are surrounded by guys live live this done this before,” said Chad. “You know you need others to help you with that and these guys around him I’ve been there and done that.”
Flights in Ames will be Thursday and Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. On Saturday the helicopter will be in Boone, and back in Ames on Sunday. For ticket information on tickets check Friends of Army Aviation, or just come out to the airport, they will get people a ride.