The National Vietnam War Museum Each of us had a Vietnam experience  
Home About the Museum Museum Themes Museum Exhibits Multimedia Center News & Events Development Projects Support the Museum Newsletters Contact Us Gift Shop


News & Events

Mineral Wells, TX
August 3, 2004

Museum Site Dedicated

On a warm July morning, over 1,500 veterans and their supporters packed the 12-acre site that is the future home of The National Vietnam War Museum in rural Mineral Wells, Texas. The crowd included about 1,200 Vietnam helicopter pilots and their families who were attending the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association reunion in Dallas over the Fourth of July holiday. For many of these veterans, this trip was a pilgrimage of sorts; a return to the place of their “birth” as helicopter pilots. Just west of the museum property is Fort Wolters Industrial Park, site of the US Army Primary Helicopter School in the 1960s and 1970s, where almost all of these pilots trained.

But this July 3 was more than just a nostalgic visit to the remnants of their youth. The pilots and other visitors had come together to celebrate the official site dedication of The National Vietnam War Museum. The celebration began with a ceremonial cannon shot, a bugler sounding Assembly, and an invocation by Brigadier General Jim Spivey. The Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Dave Cowley of radio station KYQX in Weatherford, Texas then introduced the dignitaries in attendance and read letters of support from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Representative Kay Granger, and Governor Rick Perry. U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s aide Jim Magee read the senator’s message of support, and Diane Helms, aide to State Senator Craig Estes, read a resolution of support passed by the Texas Senate.

The keynote speaker was Rear Admiral Jim Lair, a decorated US Navy pilot and three tour Vietnam veteran. Admiral Lair reflected on the effects of the Vietnam War on our nation and the importance of building this museum. He also addressed the current world situation. That we are once again a nation at war and a nation divided because of it. He emphasized that the American military did not let the nation down in the Vietnam War, and would not today. And he counseled those in attendance to stand strongly behind our men and women in uniform. It was obvious that the admiral’s words struck a responsive chord, as he was interrupted several times by applause and received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks – quite a distinct honor from this primarily Army crowd.

Following closing remarks from museum Board of Directors President Edd Luttenberger, and his challenge to the attendees to return home and take the story of the museum effort to their friends and neighbors, General Spivey delivered the benediction. Then the bugler was once again called into service to sound mess call. As part of the program, American Legion Post 75, in Mineral Wells, provided a real Texas barbecue lunch, and soft drinks, water, and beer were provided by the local Coca-Cola and Coors distributors.

Also available to the attendees were static displays of aircraft brought in especially for the event. The 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood flew in a UH-60 Blackhawk, an OH-58D Kiowa, and an AH-64 Apache, all flown by Iraq War combat veterans. The Army Reserve at Fort Hood supplied a CH-47D Chinook, and the 21st Cavalry brought a UH-1 Huey. In addition, the museum’s own OH-23D and Jerry Staggs’ TH-55 from Weatherford brought back memories of flight training, as these were the primary training aircraft used at Fort Wolters. Several lucky people were able to secure a ride in the TH-55 as part of the celebration.

After lunch, the VHPA members could return to Dallas directly, or take a bus tour of old Fort Wolters and Mineral Wells before returning. Since many had not been back in over thirty years, or had families who had never seen the area, the tours were quite popular. The reaction of just about everyone to the day’s activities can be summed up in the words of Paul Benoit of Alexandria, Virginia, who said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”



Web Design by Chameleon Web Design