June 25, 2017
That was the start of his mental healing process and Raquiza now volunteers every weekend with the Huey Vets and recruits veterans from all battlefields to take therapeutic rides and discuss military PTSD.On the tarmac at the Bud Field Aviation Hanger, there’s a sound familiar to all Vietnam Combat Veterans. The deep, loud ‘thud, thud, thud’ of a Huey helicopter.
This distinct sound meant supplies, medic rescue, and most importantly, that they were going home.
"I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for a UH1 helicopter taking care of me,” said US Army pilot Randy Parent, one of two pilots commanding the EMU 309.
Today, veterans claim the Huey continues to save their lives. The EMU 309 is a Bell UH-1H Huey helicopter restored to its 1968 Vietnam War configuration. The all-volunteer team of Huey Vets now maintain the EMU 309 to provide therapeutic flights above the San Antonio Reservoir to veterans suffering the after-effects of war.
Geoff Carr and Peter Olesko bought the Huey helicopter in 2003. Carr mortgaged his house to restore it.
“I knew if these go out of service, they can become beer cans and lose their history,” said Carr.
It has turned the lives around for two veterans, who credit the aircraft for starting their PTSD recovery.
"You hear that expression 'Coming home' and I think it's different for everybody, but if I was going to use that expression, I'd say ‘coming home’ for me was getting back in this chopper and flying it again,” said Andy Perry, who flew the Huey 309 during the Vietnam War for the Royal Australian Navy, fighting alongside American troops.
Perry and U.S. Army Sgt. Faustino Raquiza both received silver stars for their roles in Vietnam. Raquiza was awarded two silver stars.
"The silver star doesn't mean anything to me,” said Raquiza.
“I know people make it a big deal -third highest ranking star in the United States military, but I rather be understood; understood for what I'm going through and not patronized. It's hurtful."
Perry and Raquiza said they had no idea what they were returning home to after their service in Vietnam.
"I was booed at the airport, they threw stuff at me, I was called a baby killer, women killer,” said Raquiza.
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America's Forgotten Heroes - No Longer from Huey Vets - EMU, Inc on Vimeo.