Amodei Statement on Vietnam Helicopter Pilot & Crew Member Monument Ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Logan Ramsey, 202-225-6155
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-02) today released the below statement following the unveiling of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crew Member Monument in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC):
“I was humbled to speak at today’s ceremony and to stand alongside former Vietnam helicopter pilots and crewmembers, members of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA), and the many others who worked tirelessly over the last three years to properly recognize the tremendous joint-sacrifice made by these veterans more than 40 years ago. In the history of America’s Profession of Arms, these veterans represented their generations in a way that is second to none. They combined cutting edge technology, the warrior-spirit, patriotism, and bravery in the face of enemy fire in a manner that was uniquely American and merits the honor they are receiving today.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in this effort for teaming up with me to support such a deserving group of veterans, particularly Mr. William Dennison, a constituent of mine, who first alerted my office in April 2015 to the efforts of the VHPA and the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association (VHCMA) to place a commemorative monument in ANC. I would also like to recognize Congressman Ralph Abraham, who is a Member of the House Committee on Armed Services, a pilot, and someone who was instrumental in helping advance this issue through the House during the 114th Congress. Another special thanks to my former Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant, Ms. Lauren Billman, for all of her hard work on this issue, and to Ms. Kelly Dixon, Director of Legislative Operations for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for working alongside my office last Congress to get this effort moving. Together, we were able to successfully shine the spotlight on a group of true American heroes.
“Finally, I would like to thank Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director of Army National Cemeteries, and the staff at ANC for making this a priority and arriving at a favorable and appropriate decision. Not only does this monument properly recognize these deserving veterans, but it creates a commemorative space that will allow the memories of those lost to live on for generations.”
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, before today, there was never a monument honoring the heroic efforts of the nearly 5,000 pilots and crew members who died while serving in what has commonly become known as the “Helicopter War”.
In 2015 – the year of the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War – the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) submitted a proposal for a monument to be placed in Arlington National Cemetery (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 Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, the Executive Director of Army National Cemeteries, a compromise was reached to place a monument near the location where 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.