By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Brodhead American Legion Chaplain Mike McGoff discusses lives lost in combat while Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Chapter III members Ron Lewis, Ron Fritz, John Matthews and Bill Bacon stand at attention as the color guard during the ceremony at Green County Veterans Memorial Park honoring the installation of a Huey helicopter. To order either of these photos, click here. (Times photo: Bridget Cooke)
MONROE - After a decade of searching, and a year of restoration, the Green County Veterans Memorial Park Committee dedicated a Huey UH-1 helicopter in the park at the intersection of County N and Wisconsin 81.

The event Sunday afternoon brought more than 100 people, including county veterans, residents and children, eager to see the Huey placed beside the Army tank and among the pavers which serve as memorials for veterans from the area.

President of the GCVMP Committee Larry Ayres of Brodhead helped organize the event. He, along with vice president Bill Hustad of Monticello, worked to bring the Huey to Green County. Ayres served in the Vietnam War as a helicopter pilot.

"It's a symbol of help, a symbol of maybe going away from an undesirable situation," Ayres said. "It saved a lot of lives. Soldiers over there would say, "you're not getting out of here until you hear that whop, whop, whop.'"

Ayres pointed to the helicopter as a symbol not just for Vietnam veterans, but for service members in Korea and conflicts following Vietnam.

In 1950, the use of helicopters saved lives through quick medical evacuations and transportation for ailing Marines during the Korean War. The aircraft became more crucial for spotting gunfire and plucking downed fliers from the Sea of Japan for the Navy. In Vietnam, the Bell H-1 Iroquois or "Huey" helicopters were powered by jet turbine. First flown in 1956, the aircraft were used for transport; battlefield command and control; bringing in and taking out troops; search and rescue; and other utility roles during the Vietnam War.

Clayton Ruegsegger, a veteran of the Iraq War and Green County's veterans services officer, spoke during the ceremony on the importance of the helicopter in combat. He recalled in 2003 riding in a Huey flown by a pilot with decades of experience.

Ayres credited Ruegsegger for making it possible to bring the helicopter to the park, as he was the one who located the helicopter for sale online.

"This helicopter is a fine addition to this park," Ruegsegger said. "The Huey helicopter, in particular, often has a special meaning to Vietnam veterans."

Green County Clerk Mike Doyle also spoke, noting the interest the helicopter would bolster in other generations.

Colony Brands CEO John Baumann recalled family and friends who served, and those lost in battle, as well as his 29-year-old stepson who made it back home after two tours overseas.

"Standing on these grounds, with so many true American heroes, listening to you all tell your stories, is truly inspirational," Baumann said.

As the Huey stood with its new paint job recalling the look of helicopters used throughout the 60s and 70s, it is close to its final installation. Recently poured cement sat beside the brick pavers and under the flag poles at the memorial. The large steel mount stood nearby. Ayres said organizers plan to have the helicopter in place in three weeks.

"We hope that this is more than just a military memorial," Ayres said. "That it's a quiet and peaceful place where maybe you can come and sort out your thoughts and find some peace."

There is currently a plan to build a new gazebo behind the brick space reserved for memorials. After that though, Ayres said, the group isn't sure whether it will add any pieces in the near future.