Hundreds of people attended the Veterans Day Celebration at the Veterans Memorial Park in Leesburg, where the new Huey helicopter memorial was dedicated to remember our Vietnam War veterans.

Korean War veteran Don Van Beck led the project that took almost two years to complete.

The emphasis of the event was to give a proper welcome home to all the Vietnam veterans in attendance and those in the community. Van Beck wanted to honor the Vietnam veterans, especially, because of the horrendous events that took place when they came home from war.

“I’ve dreamt of this for a long time,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to honor our Vietnam veterans the way that they deserve. When they were first brought back from war, they were disgraced by many Americans. This ceremony is for them, to thank them for their service and allow the Huey to be a reminder that we appreciate them.”

Vietnam veteran Don Mackey appreciated the gesture and although almost 50 years later, he was grateful for the act of kindness.

“When I came home from the war, I was spit at and chased away,” he said. “I was so afraid that I went into the bathroom and threw away my uniform. I put on civilian clothes and tried to act inconspicuous. We were just doing what we were told but were ridiculed for it. I was more scared to be home than I was in war. Today, people are able to look back on the heartbreaking situation and really try to understand. I’m so thankful for the honor and remembrance today.”

Russ Warriner helped dedicate the Huey helicopter, which was mounted at the park on Tuesday, with these words.

“During Vietnam, the sound of the Huey helicopter meant the crew was doing their job,” he said. “They would work day and night to provide supplies, rescue the wounded or bring home those who gave their all for their country. The sound of the Huey will forever ring with our vets. Let us use this Huey as a proper welcome home and a symbol of hope for our troops.”

The team that worked on the Huey project consisted of Duane Haverstock, Greg Fernance, Cary Cuyler, Tim Carroll, Todd Smith, Jim Fierce, Michael McCourt, Paul Guthrie Jr., Charley Harold, Jim Christensen and Jerry Sexsmith. They were all recognized for their service and presented special edition Huey hats from Executive Director Van Beck.

“I could not have done it without these men,” Van Beck said. “It has been an honor working with them and giving our veterans the welcome home they deserve.”