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Veteran reunited with helicopter he worked on in Vietnam after Iowa Western students help restore it

Posted at 1:23 PM, Sep 13, 2022

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (KMTV) — It was a day five decades in the making.

A veteran was reunited with the helicopter he worked on in Vietnam.

Members of the community, veterans, and college students packed one of the hangers at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport Monday afternoon.

It was there where one of the original Huey helicopters used in the Vietnam war was unveiled.

"Something happened to where we thought we were going to die in a hooch and then blew the hooch down on top of it," said Craig Fouts.

Fouts is one of the original Army Huey helicopter crew chiefs. He flew inside this actual aircraft.

"It was a 10.5 hour day of flying and we took fire several times and I returned fire several times as we were dropping off troops, and there was a lot of the enemy below," said Fouts.

He has plenty of stories from his time in Vietnam back in the late 1960s.

"On May 7th, my helicopter was destroyed along with Alejandro's and three others, and our hooch was blown on top of us. So we had to have a helicopter that would replace that. And that's five, three, two, which we picked up in Phu Loi," said Fouts.

Fouts says the helicopter had only six hours on it when he got it all those years ago.

"I would never have dreamed at that time that this exact helicopter would become the centerpiece of a wonderful memorial in Papillion, Nebraska, to honor all veterans who served during the Vietnam war, and especially for those who gave their ultimate sacrifice," Fouts said.

Bryan Stuckenschmidt is an aviation maintenance science freshman at Iowa Western Community College.

He is one of several students who helped restore this aircraft to some of its former glory.

"We painted it two weeks ago and it turned out amazing," Stuckenschmidt said.

A task that has a deep meaning for this college freshman.

"I live in Millard, and to be so close to something that you worked on and be so proud of it is humbling," Stuckenschmidt said.

Fouts says he traveled from California to be in the region for the unveiling and is overwhelmed with the work that went into everything.

"It's unbelievable. So, I appreciate everything it's being done. And they're just as excited about it as I am," Fouts said.

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