Monument honors Vietnam helicopter pilots and crews

ARLINGTON, Va. (WMTV) -- A project years in the works has come to completion Wednesday.
A new monument was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery that honors nearly five thousand helicopter pilots and crew members killed during the Vietnam War. Supporters from Wisconsin worked hard to make this memorial happen.

Madison-native Julie Kink said this dedication ceremony tells a love story.

She was eight when her older brother was killed while serving as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. So she's made it her mission to make sure his sacrifice is remembered.

"What I did was write a letter. I thought that it was a good effort and I participated in a walk the halls of Congress effort that we made to try to alert legislators to the need for the monument," Kink said. "But it's in the right place and it's about time. It's here, that's the most important thing."

Bob Hesselbein a Vietnam helicopter pilot from Middleton led the charge with the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association.

Back in 2015, the group submitted a proposal for the memorial, but it was declined by the Secretary of the Army. Instead, granted the VHPA a tree marker. So, Hesselbein and his team went to lawmakers trying to pass a bill to mandate its construction.

The bill was introduced, but the Secretary of the Army and association reached a compromise in the form of a smaller monument.

Kink said for herself, and other Gold Star families, this monument was worth every effort it took to see it become a reality.

"It's been an intense effort but to me it's a love story because it signifies the love of one group of veterans for another group of veterans who were all in the same place at the same time but some didn't come home," said Kink.

The monument was fully funded by the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. It was an effort four years in the making.