Amodei Congratulates Vietnam Helicopter Crew on Monument Designation in Arlington National Cemetery
WASHINGTON, D.C – Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-02) today released the following statement after the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) voted to accept the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) management board’s proposal to place a monument within ANC, honoring the nearly 5,000 helicopter pilots and crewmembers killed in action while serving in Vietnam.
“With more than 40 years having passed since the end of the Vietnam War, I’m pleased to know this group of deserving veterans will finally receive proper recognition – an honor that is long overdue,” said Congressman Amodei. “Since first learning the process had failed these veterans, I’ve been committed to advancing this effort through the House for the past two Congresses. In doing so, it's been a pleasure to work alongside the dedicated group of people at the VHPA, who have worked tirelessly to see this through to fruition. I also thank Senators Sullivan and Baldwin for teaming up with me and supporting this initiative.
“Together, we were able to successfully shine the spotlight on a group of true American heroes,” continued Amodei. “Finally, I would like to thank the staff at ANC for making this a priority and arriving at a favorable and appropriate decision. Not only does this monument properly recognize the tremendous joint sacrifice made by these veterans, but it creates a commemorative space that will allow the memories of those lost to live on for years.”
“The outcome is a win-win for Vietnam Veterans, Gold Star Families, and Arlington National Cemetery,” said Bob Hesselbein, Legacy Committee Chairman of the VHPA. “When Arlington National Cemetery leadership came to understand the commitment of Congress to honoring our fallen brothers who operated helicopters in the Vietnam War, they found a way to place a suitable monument, save a beautiful tree, and preserve burial space for American heroes. We could not have achieved this win-win outcome without the help of legislators such as Mark Amodei. We are grateful for his commitment to honoring those who died operating helicopters in the Vietnam War.”
The Vietnam War was the first in which the United States Military relied heavily on helicopters for transportation and combat. These pilots and crew members touched every aspect of efforts during the war, serving as transportation for soldiers and civilians, and providing critical battlefield support. However, there is currently no national monument in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) honoring the heroic efforts of a number of casualties that account for nearly ten percent of all Vietnam casualties.
In 2015 – the year of the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War – the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) submitted a proposal for a memorial to be placed in ANC. However, the Secretary of the Army declined the proposal and instead granted the VHPA a tree marker – which has never been used to honor a common sacrifice of this magnitude. After the proposal was denied, a course of legislative action to honor the pilots and crew members killed in action became necessary.
During the 114th Congress, Congressman Amodei introduced H.R. 4298,the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Memorial Act. This bill successfully passed the House before the end of the last Congress and would have directed the Secretary of the Army to place a monument within the cemetery. Congressman Amodei reintroduced this legislation this Congress as the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Monument Act(H.R. 877). Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Following negotiations between the VHPA and the Executive Director of Army National Cemeteries, a compromise was reached to place a monument near the location in which the VHPA dedicated a tree in August 2015. Measuring 22 inches high, 21 inches deep, and 32 inches wide, the monument contains all design elements of the original Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument first proposed to the Secretary of the Army and currently found within the bill text of H.R. 877. The monument will be at no cost to the taxpayer and will be fully funded by the VHPA.