Carl Burns, a Vietnam Veteran who lives in Manalapan, won first place in the New Jersey Veterans Administration local phase of the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition. His essay, “Hangar Crew,” tells the story of a group of Veterans who came together to restore a Bell-UH-1D helicopter (“Huey”), left in a field in New Jersey for 20 years, forgotten by time. The essay has moved on to the national portion of the competition.

“I wrote this for the guys, it’s not for me,” said Carl. “That’s what makes it so special.”

Carl BurnsCarl tells the unlikely story of the restoration of the helicopter, a “hunk of metal with broken windshields and missing parts.” The Huey eventually found a home, mounted and displayed at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Holmdel.

For 14 months, a group of Veterans from Vietnam and Afghanistan, along with the occasional visit from grandsons, daughters and others, met each Monday, painstakingly and lovingly restoring the once forgotten piece of machinery that was such an important part of Carl’s life story.

“Once we got the helicopter, we never got a ‘no’ from anyone,” said Carl. “Needed parts magically showed up. No contractor or supplier said no to our requests.”

“Vietnam was full of the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Carl. “This is nothing but the good.”

Carl is no stranger to writing. “Centaurs in Vietnam: Untold Stories of the First Year,” was published in 2008 and is full of tales from Carl’s first year in Vietnam as an air cavalry helicopter pilot and the troop based at Cu Chi.

The Huey became the symbol of U.S. combat forces in Vietnam. In country, more than 12,000 helicopters served alongside our troops. The 7,000 Hueys that served flew 9,713,762 hours. At home, millions watched them fly on nightly news reports. The Huey is an iconic image of the Vietnam Era and a fitting display at the Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center.

The restored Huey was dedicated on May 7, 2014, the helicopter’s 50th birthday. It is a fitting tribute to all who have served our country, as well as a unique and historically important teaching tool for the thousands of students and visitors who experience the Memorial and Museum each year.

Interested in seeing the newly-restored Huey? Visit at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and Museum on the grounds of the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. Free, guided tours of the memorial are offered the first Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tours are also available by request. Visit for more information.

Last Patrol Stephanie EichmeyerStephanie Eichmeyer is a former journalist turned writer and public relations specialist. Her background includes non-profit work in health care and fundraising, as well as event planning, media and community relations and internal and external communications.

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Published on Jul. 29, 2015

Estimated reading time is 2.5 min.

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  1. german check August 17, 2015 at 7:28 am

    i think;The Huey became the symbol of U.S. combat forces in Vietnam. In country, more than 12,000 helicopters served alongside our troops. The 7,000 Hueys that served flew 9,713,762 hours. At home, millions watched them fly on nightly news reports. The Huey is an iconic image of the Vietnam Era and a fitting display at the Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center.. thank you

  2. DannyG August 13, 2015 at 12:31 am

    HOW DARE YOU speak badly of the brave American men & women that fought to free YOUR country from communism! They didn’t want to be there in the first place! The government ORDERED them to go! The ones that were lucky enough to make it home were spit on, denied decent jobs, & forced to cope with the demonsin their minds that haunt them until today, however they could. Saving your country affected their wifes & children, too. Then our government brought thousands of your people over here to live in luxury! Mr. Quang, do you live in Vietnam or the United States? If you live here, & don’t like us so much, I would be willing to pitch in a few dollars for a plane ticket back to Vietnam!
    I am sorry to be so rude, but HOW DARE YOU !!

  3. Bright Quang July 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Dear Sir:
    I would like to discuss with you about the powerful benefits of Veterans of the Vietnam War because we are the same as American veterans or so-called is like the American citizens when we were together fighting for the heart of the America policy, but you are the powerful benefits of veterans of the Vietnam War, but we are the Vietnamese paid soldiers of the America when we did not have any benefits of the Vietnam War.
    First, we have taken an oath loyalty to did not only be loyal with our American flag but also were loyal to the America Constitution again because we were duty fighting against to the communism. In fact, our enemy did not forgive you or us.
    Second, as you have understood about the laws of War Power than us, but you seemed to forget yourselves since you had taken oath loyalty under the American flag and America Constitution if you we, the Vietnamese American paid soldiers of the United States of America have forgot our oath loyalty and loyal America Constitution, so we must send to prison jailed by the American Court.
    Third, if you were unable to understand about the prisoner of the Vietnam War by the heart of the America policy, you should ask John McCann and you should find out to International Laws of Wars when a invader has had betrayed its friendships as like the Vietnamese American of veterans. For example, Canada and Australia were followers of the United States, but they are offering the veterans benefits to the Vietnamese Americans paid soldiers when they have come to the these nations. According to the United States to be super nations, but it was deceiving for the weak and stupid men as like us.
    Finally, you are almost of American scholars when you understood about the International Laws of Wars than the Vietnamese American paid solders, but you have been cheating us when the American invader of the Vietnam War that had the Constitution and Congress have approved the Vietnam War. But you have swallowed your oath loyalty in yourselves, you have never ashamed in one’s self. Therefore, I have created a children’s book in order to teach the American children that they will not follow the bad ways of their fathers in order to teach them to be respectful themselves and will ever deceive to any weak men again. As you understand about President Lincoln, so I would to borrow his words to remind you when he said: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the People all the time.” that is the powerful benefits of veterans of the Vietnam War.

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