Seven months after it was removed from its base at Angel Fire’s Vietnam Veterans National Memorial and taken to Roswell for restoration and repairs, the 53-year-old Huey helicopter, Viking Surprise 64-13670, took the long road home Tuesday (May 16).
Donated to the memorial by the New Mexico National Guard in 1999, the Huey has been the focal point of the grounds of the first major Vietnam memorial in the United States.
In October 2016, the 1964 helicopter was moved by the New Mexico Department of Transportation to AerSale, an aircraft repair and manufacture company in Roswell, which restored the Huey to almost mint condition, replacing seals, windows, reinforcing stress points, etc. Dean Baldwin Painting repainted the Huey in its original U.S. Army colors of the Vietnam War period.
All of the transportation, heavy lifting with cranes, refurbishing and repainting were donated by private companies and agencies. In most cases, employees of the companies and agencies eagerly volunteered their labor to work on the Huey.
The Angel Fire Huey took at least 135 bullets for American troops and was damaged in a rescue operation during the war in Vietnam. It was later repaired and delivered to the Arizona National Guard. The New Mexico National Guard took possession of the helicopter in 1991 and used the helicopter for training, transportation and other utility purposes until 1999.
The decommissioned helicopter was donated to the Vietnam memorial in Angel Fire.
In an earlier Chronicle interview, retired National Guardsman and Vietnam veteran Richard “Dick” Dickerson said the sight of a Huey helicopter can be emotional for many Vietnam veterans. “There’s not a Vietnam veteran who comes to this memorial that doesn’t want a picture taken next to this aircraft.”