Copter effort back in action

Restoration project slowed, but not stopped, by pandemic at local Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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Shane Ramnarine, owner of Central New York Precision Welding in Rome and his crew, performed dustless blasting paint stripping on the UH-1 Huey Helicopter for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located at Griffiss Business and Technology Park Wednesday morning.

The New York State Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc. Committee took possession of the helicopter on Aug. 1 of last year, and over the last several months, had to deal with some setbacks and schedule changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to work on Phase 2 of the memorial.

“But we are now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mark Jennings, Memorial Committee vice president and Phase 2 project coordinator. 

Once the helicopter paint stripping is finished, it will be moved to the Strategic Global Aviation hangar where it will be painted olive drab in the likeness of a U.S. Navy Seawolf gunship. Finish work will be finalized prior to being moved and mounted on a pole at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial location. 

Jennings said a new chapter for the American-made helicopter has begun. It was once active in the Royal Australian Air Force service, he said, performing several search-and-rescue operations.

Jennings has said the helicopter also carried President Lyndon Johnson’s security team when he went to Australia.

While in service, the helicopter read A2-390 on the tail, and Jennings said the “390” will be restored as a tribute, but the helicopter will look like a U.S. Navy Seawolf to honor not only all Vietnam veterans, but all the Seawolf crews that lost their lives in Vietnam. The Seawolf unit was the only military unit that was commissioned and decommissioned in Vietnam.

Jennings said they hope to have the helicopter restored by summer.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located at the intersection of Route 825 and Ellsworth Road, was dedicated on Memorial Day 2019. 

Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the Phase 2 Memorial project, may send them to the New York State Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Inc., 210 Elm St., Rome, N.Y. 13440.

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