Dedication of 'Helicopter War' memorial at Arlington set for April
By BILL CAMERON | Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa. | Published: March 10, 2018
POCONO PINES, Pa (Tribune News Service) — Space is in short supply at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, but military officials have managed to carve out a few square feet for a special memorial.
The new stone monument will pay tribute to the nearly 5,000 American helicopter pilots who died in the Vietnam War. A formal dedication will take place April 18, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.
That day can't come soon enough for one Monroe County veteran.
"This mission is almost accomplished," said Bill "Moon" Mullen, of Pocono Pines. The retired first lieutenant served as an Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.
"There were so many good, young guys in their early 20s that never came home 50 years ago," he said. "That memorial will be there now for hundreds and hundreds of years."
All costs of the new installation are being funded by the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. Mullen had served as the association's president in 2013 when the project began.
Army officials approved an initial request by the association for a memorial tree, which was dedicated Aug. 28, 2015. The tree was planted within eight feet of a sidewalk along Memorial Drive, a space unusable for burials.
Association leaders later asked to place a granite monument, at the association's own costs, on the same site. Their request was denied, and the project stalled.
That is, until a local Congressman got involved.
"During our first walk through Washington, I had an appointment with Congressman Matt Cartwright," Mullen said. "At that time, he was co-sponsor number 11 on our bill."
"Cartwright, though, he did not stop. He wrote letters to the Secretary of the Army. He wrote letters to the Director of ANC. Two years later, our bill passed the House 435 to 0."
That bill never became law, however. Military and legislative officials came to an agreement before the bill reached a vote on the Senate floor.
"If the Army and ANC refused to give us a spot, Congress would have forced them," Mullen said. "That's when they decided to sit down, negotiate and give us what we had asked for forty years."
"Without the Congressional approval, I don't think it would have ever happened."
Mullen credits Cartwright as a large factor to that.
"Every time I came down to walk the halls of Congress, Cartwright was right there," he said. "He never asked if I was a Democrat, a Republican, or if I was an Independent – not once. He just cared about the project."
The new monument, which bears the emblems of all five branches of the U.S. military, is currently in ANC care awaiting installation. A concrete foundation, poured on Wednesday, will help support the weight of the granite for years to come.
"We are right across from the tomb of the unknown soldier, one of the most visited monuments at ANC," Mullen said. "If we were just a tree with a ground level marker, you wouldn't even stop and notice."
"Those 5,000 deserve to be thanked for their sacrifice. It will remind people, maybe for generations, that these were the people who fought the 'Helicopter War.'"
(c)2018 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.
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