On Wednesday, March 25, Dan Dennison, a helicopter aviator with the Fourth Aviation Bn, Fourth Infantry Division in Vietnam, attended the Department of the Army meeting to consider a proposal by the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VPHA) to establish a monument honoring fallen pilots and crew members of the Vietnam War at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Specifically, the group was an Advisory Panel that recommends government actions concerning ANC. Max Cleland, former U.S. Senator from Georgia and Vietnam veteran chaired the meeting.
He served at the Battle of Khe Sanh.
Bob Hesselbein, the President of VHPA provided a presentation to the Advisory Panel explaining that the helicopter is the most visible symbol of the Vietnam War. The casualty rate for helicopter pilots and crew members during the war was high; at nine percent. He stressed that more than 18 percent of the fallen helicopter pilots and crews are buried at Arlington Cemetery. When asked why ANC is the only place this monument should be placed, Bob replied that helicopter pilots and crew members made major contributions during the war; helicopter personnel served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard; and helicopter operations were closely identified with our mission in Southeast Asia.
After the presentations, Chairman Cleland stated that VHPA has his vote.
Others on the Panel were positive, but expressed concern about the limited amount of space available to bury qualified individuals at Arlington. The review process is expected to take several months including additional meetings, and approval by the Secretary of the Army and Congress. The next step appears to be a meeting with the Fine Arts Commission to examine the design of the proposed monument.
Bob Hesselbein recommends we contact our Congressional delegations and express our support for the proposal.