After years of service in the Vietnam War, the helicopter became a source of smiles for all who enjoyed it at MARPAT Aviation’s annual Huey Reunion.
This year marked the seventh annual reunion.
For volunteer pilots like Dennis “Deno” Stiles, who knew three of the crash victims, it was much more than just an event.
“What this helicopter represents and what it is to fly this helicopter is so much more than it’s fun to cruise around the valley with it,” Stiles said.
As a volunteer, Stiles said he was able to fly the helicopter several times.
“When we left that first year, it wasn’t even a question of coming back,” Stiles said. “It feels like a family reunion. Honestly, that’s what it feels like.”
Stiles said the Huey was just a piece of what the event stood for.
“It was a comradery. A brotherhood of aviation and of veterans. Veterans that knew their story needed to be told or it was going to be lost.”Volunteer pilot Dennis “Deno” Stiles
From flying the Huey to hearing stories from Vietnam, Stiles said he loved everything about the event.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, he’s left with, “sadness,” “a little bit of anger,” and many questions, including “Why did this happen? Why at such a joyful event did this have to happen?”