The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

March 29, 2014

Crew of 'Wendy' reunites

100 gather to view helicopter, remember fallen

NEW BERLIN — NEW BERLIN — The UH-1 Huey helicopter has sat proudly aside Benfer-Miller American Legion Post 957 in New Berlin for about 20 years, a Vietnam War-era machine requisitioned for a display out front.

For Bill Case, of the San Francisco area, helicopter No. 526 was more than a display. Case was crew chief for “Wendy,” as the helicopter was named, from 1970-72 during his service in Da Nang.

An online database search led Case back to Wendy, and on Saturday, he and other crew members watched as she was rededicated in a tribute to Vietnam Veterans Day at the legion.

It was part of a moving ceremony marked with many tears and unmarred by the cold afternoon rain, a tribute to all Vietnam veterans, living and fallen, in front of about 100 people.

“When I first moved here, the helo sat here proud, neat, it was something special,” event organizer Martin Russell, of the legion, told the crowd. “When Bill found it and called the legion, he came to share the story and it came to life.”

A few months ago, Case had searched an online database of old military equipment, and it said the helicopter was at the New Berlin American Legion. Case checked out the legion’s website, and sure enough, there was his machine.

“I called here and asked someone to read me the tail number,” Case said. “I couldn’t believe it was the Huey. It was awesome!”

It had been 40 years since he’d seen Wendy, and “I thought ‘dang, I want to go see it.’ ”

In his remarks to the crowd, Case thanked the New Berlin American Legion for reviving Wendy, calling the Huey “a workhorse aircraft.” Case was joined by his sons, their wives and his granddaughters, saying “this is great” they got to see this piece of his personal history.

“I cannot tell you how much this means to me, this thing being here,” he said. “It’s a beautiful spot for it to sit. ... It rejuvenated a lot of memories, and brought old buddies back together.”

Those old buddies came to New Berlin from all over the country: Ron Jemison, from Talladega, Ala., Wendy’s door gunner; Paul Hale, from Montgomery, Ala., her pilot; Daryl Christensen, from South Dakota was there, his brother, Alan, had been part of the crew but who went missing in Vietnam; Jim Meehan, of Salisbury Mills, N.Y., also was there representing fallen family members.

“It was amazing. What else can you say?” Russell said when he learned of Wendy’s crew.

The ceremony was complete with a gun salute, the shell casings presented to all of Wendy’s crew and representatives. Attendees also were invited to attach flowers to a wreath in memory of veterans.

“After 40 years, we’re still knitted together by Wendy,” Case said. Seeing her again “was the best welcome home I had in 40 years.”

n Email comments to esocha@dailyitem.com.

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