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Veterans close in on funds needed to install helicopter
Green County Veterans Memorial Park Board vice president Bill Hustad and president Larry Ayres stand with the group's Huey helicopter, which will be placed in the memorial park when fundraising is complete. (Photo supplied)
MONROE - The Green County Veterans Memorial Park Board succeeded in obtaining a Huey helicopter after 11 years of searching but still need an extra boost to finish fundraising and put the piece of history in place.

Located at the intersection of County N and Wisconsin 81, the memorial park already hosts a large M-60 army tank to remember veterans of World War II and the Korean War. An assortment of well-organized brick pavers remember the names of past veterans. The Huey UH-1M helicopters, used initially in the Korean War in 1956 and later in the Vietnam War, were vital in transporting wounded, troop insertion and extraction, fire support coordination, search and rescue and battlefield command and control.

The relic of the two wars was particularly important to GCVMP Board president Larry Ayres, who flew as an Army pilot in the Vietnam War. When the group first brought the Huey to Wisconsin in November, Ayres said the helicopter as a piece of the memorial park was "closure to some extent."

"The Vietnam War was called the helicopter war," Ayres said. "It's a countywide memorial. A peaceful connection."

Ayres added that his ultimate goal is to make sure every fallen serviceman in Green County is recognized through the use of the stones at the memorial park. The helicopter has been just one piece of a larger goal.

Through the use of community fundraising and support, GCVMP Board vice president Bill Hustad said the group has been able to fund the helicopter, and just recently secured $15,000 to finish refurbishing the flyer with a new coat of paint. The group still needs to put in a mount at the park to install the Huey properly, which it estimates should cost roughly $10,000.

"It's been a cross-section of veterans organizations, businesses and individuals," Hustad said. "The dinner dance in April was very successful."

Raising the money to paint the Huey took about five months. The group has hopes to refurbish the helicopter back to what it looked like during the Vietnam War before the end of July. The mount still needs to be funded, but they plan on finishing the entire project before the end of the year. Hustad said local business fundraisers have boosted the group's efforts. They held a dance with an auction and personal donations accepted at the end of April to bring in more revenue for the project.

"We've kept ourselves busy by promoting it," Ayres said. "All of our efforts are to get it painted and mounted before Veterans Day. We are very grateful for all of the support. It's just been amazing. We can't thank you enough."

Hustad said the effort over the past decade put in by a number of board members, past and present, has been to bring a unique memorial to the park for veterans of a certain era.

"We thought the helicopter would represent Vietnam," Hustad said. "It's for all veterans, but this particular helicopter was used in Vietnam. It means a lot to have something you look at. It's not just some granite; this is an artifact. That means a lot as a veteran."

The group has plans to host a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to dedicate certain bricks in memory of service members, talk about updates to the project and recognize donors to the park.