FLAGSTAFF (3TV/CBS 5) -- Two Vietnam veterans are restoring an old Army helicopter at the National Guard base just west of Flagstaff.
“When it’s sitting in the condition where it’s deteriorating a little bit, everybody wants to get it fixed back up the way it should be,” said Lannie Van Tassel, who spearheaded the operation.
The old Huey sitting near the entrance of Camp Navajo brings back memories for the vets, both of who flew on similar aircraft during their tours of duty.
“I think it made me the person I am today,” Steve Wolfenbarger said.
He and Van Tassel say the helicopter was originally assigned to Company C of the 158th Aviation Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division. Their radio call sign: Phoenix.
“It’s strange about combat, 'cause you’re scared, but it’s an adrenaline rush like you can’t believe,” Van Tassel said. “If they’re shooting at me, I grab my gun, and I’m shooting back.”
The vets recalled a resilient aircraft that they trusted with their lives.
“You do what you have to to keep her flying, and knowing that she’ll get you home when she has to,” Wolfenbarger said.
The veterans want to restore the exterior and interior of the helicopter. And while the old aircraft has withstood the elements relatively well, they also want to build a structure to protect the Huey from Flagstaff’s cold winters.
“It’s one of our fellow soldiers,” Van Tassel said.
If you’d like to help, you can donate to the project’s GoFundMe account.