Memorial Helicopter Fund

In 1973 MG Spurgeon Neel and then LTC Patrick Brady (now MG Retired) dedicated a UH-1 Helicopter as a memorial to the 213 DUSTOFF Crewmembers who died during the Vietnam War while flying to save lives on the battlefield. That helicopter stood on the plaza between the Army Medical Department Center and School campus and the (then) Health Services Command Headquarters on Fort Sam Houston.

In the ensuing years, the helicopter remained in that spot serving as a visible symbol of the ultimate sacrifice of those brave men (no female DUSTOFFers were killed during the Vietnam War). The Texas weather took its toll on that airframe despite at least two repainting jobs during. In 1998, the DUSTOFF Association teamed up with MG James Peake, then commander of the AMEDD Center and School) to upgrade the site. An elevated pad, a new sidewalk connecting the C&S and the building that now housed the Army Medical Command, and a reflection area under the tailboom of the airframe. Two monuments with bronze plaques and landscaping was provided by donations collected by the DUSTOFF Association. At the ceremony, the entire plaza surrounding the helicopter was dedicated as the MG Spurgeon Neel DUSTOFF Plaza.

Despite the paint jobs on the aircraft the airframe deteriorated due to corrosion. In December 2007, the rear strut collapsed due to high winds and corrosion of the cross tube and retention straps. The aircraft was repaired but access to it was limited as a caution avoiding injury to onlookers and visitors to the site. In 2010, the existing helicopter was traded with a newly refurbished UH-1 helicopter through an “intra-Army Museum trade” between the AMEDD Museum and the Army Aviation Museum. That aircraft was in place on July 1, 2010. To date, no further painting, maintenance or protection of the aircraft from the elements of the Texas weather have been accomplished.

The DUSTOFF Association Executive Council explored upgrades to the site and protection measures for this memorial helicopter in 2015-16 and presented conceptual plans and early engineering estimates to the membership at the 2016 Annual Reunion. During the following year it was hoped that the AMEDD C&S might take on the construction of a suitable cover for the aircraft and begin the process of budgeting for that project. This did not happen. The DUSTOFF Association membership voted at the Annual Membership Meeting at the 2017 Annual Reunion to take on this project and raise the funds necessary to construct a suitable structure on the site as well as installation of a first-class memorial to not only our Vietnam War KIAs but also all other DUSTOFF Crewmembers who were killed in the conduct of life-saving missions, both in peace and during combat operations. The new memorial is to honor the 261 DUSTOFF Crewmembers killed to date plus allow for the addition of new names as the unfortunately might occur.

Early engineering estimates predict a “first-look” cost of approximately $1,200,00 or which approximately $800,000 would be for the structure and $400,000 would be for the granite Vietnam Wall-like memorial and surrounding viewing area. To aid in raising this money, the DUSTOFF Association Executive Council has contracted with Foundation Search and formed a fund-raising committee to search out grants and philanthropic Foundations who donate money for such projects. Membership participation has already begun to bring in money for this major effort.

There is much work to do to make this project possible and legal. Donation of such large sums of money to the Federal Government for structures on Federal Installations will required the DUSTOFF Association to proffer the project through the Secretary of the Air Force and onward to the U.S. Congress for approval. Requirements of the State of Texas Historical Society as well as the U. S. Air Force regulations must also be complied with. To that end, your Executive Director and Herb Coley, President of the AMEDD Museum Foundation, met with MG Brian Lien and COL David Raugh (CG of the AMEDD C&S and Cdr, 502nd Airbase Support Group, the installation commander) and have garnered their support and that of their staffs.

Contributions may now be made by printing and filling out the donation form and sending with a check or making a contribution through the PayPal. You may use your credit card to make those contributions using PayPal and do not have to join PayPal.

Contributions are tax-deductible since the DUSTOFF Association is a 501(c)19 tax-exempt/tax-deductible corporation in accordance with IRS rules and regulations.

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