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Watermelon Capital of the World


Friday, November 6, 1998

Helicopter to be dedicated
to those who died in Vietnam

CRISP COUNTY - A long overdue tribute will be paid Saturday to the "Huey" #643 helicopter located at the Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park.

The helicopter was brought to the park through the efforts of Cordele resident's Capt. Tom Nesbitt and Sgt. Romeo Griffin. These two Vietnam veterans paved the way for the Huey to be placed in the park in 1992.

In a 1992 Dispatch article about their work then, Nesbitt said he would like to see the helicopter dedicated to the nine men from Crisp County who died in Vietnam. The nine local men killed were Rubin Mathis, Vernon Means, Ernest Staines, Willie Walker, David Beck, Marvin Dowdell, Johnnie Faircloth, Charles Greene and Vernon Hayslip. 

Who'll get me first, Winston's or Charlie?

The dedication ceremony will finally take place this Saturday at 1 p.m. in front of the helicopter. Nesbitt along with others from the community have spent the last several months working on the run down helicopter. "It was basically stripped of all it's instruments and in desperate need of new paint and detailing," he said.

The former pilot with the 114th Knights in Vietnam decided to research the tail number of the helicopter and discovered it had flown in his unit in Vietnam from June '67 to July'68.

Although this was a few years prior to Nesbitt's service in Vietnam (70-71), he felt compelled to do something to improve the run down appearance of the Huey. "I first tried to get major companies to help sponsor this expensive undertaking but found no help there. I then put the word out to my friends and over the Internet. To my surprise and delight, people from all over the country responded to assist in making this happen." said Nesbitt.

One of the actual pilots who flew this Huey in combat and as flight leader on several missions around the Mekong Delta, Lt. (later Capt.) Guy Hatlie will be in attendance Saturday at the dedication ceremony. Nesbitt said official records indicate the chopper was shot down at least once, but personal recollections by other crew members that have been found establish that it was shot down three times. "After leaving Vietnam it went to Thailand for overhaul, then to Germany and back to the states to finish out it's service before being 'retired'," said Nesbitt.

"I just want to thank Marla Nesbitt, Tony Spletstoser, Ben Watson of Cordele Body Works, Crisp County Sheriff Donnie Haralson and his crew and Jerry Gray for all their hard work in laboring to get the huey going," said Nesbitt.  "Donations of equipment, nose art, gauges and monitory contributions include Oscar Sanders, Tom and Naomi Schena, Richard and Lynn Hunter, Leroy "Red" Wilson, Col. George Young, Tony Karpinski, Guy Hatlie, Clayton Owens, UNC Lear Siegler of Ft. Drum, NY and U.S. Helicopters of Ozark, Al. Technical advice and moral support came from Alan Knight of Sherwin Williams, Terry Dell (114th Webmaster), John Nichols of Lockheed, Butch Eyler of Eyler Signs in Gettysburg, Pa and the Crisp County Power Commission."

Knight 643 Being Mounted

Knight 643 In The Buff

Crisp County Power Commission workers (above) mounted the Huey Helicopter Thursday afternoon after it had gone through an extensive restoration. The helicopter arrived (above right) at Veterans Memorial State Park in deplorable condition and only after several months of work it has been brought to its present condition (right). Knight 643 Fully Restored


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