Vietnam veterans will gather locally for reunion this weekend
Veterans of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company will be visiting local sites this weekend as part of their 11th national reunion.
Unit veterans are traveling from all over the United States and countries around the world. While at the reunion they will tour Niagara Falls, the Erie Canal locks at Lockport, Leonard Oakes winery in Medina, the Cobblestone Museum at Childs and Albion’s Historic Downtown and Courthouse Square districts.
Author David Bellavia, a Lyndonville native, will speak to the Vietnam veterans on Friday. Bellavia, who now lives in Batavia, is the winner of the Silver Star for his bravery during the war in Iraq.
The reunion is chaired by Charlie Nesbitt, a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. Nesbitt is a former state assemblyman.
Known by the call sign “Gladiator” or “Cougar” (gunships), the unit was based during the Vietnam War in Kontum, Pleiku and Ankhe in the Central Highlands of that Southeast Asian battleground. Aircrews from the 57th flew the iconic UH1 “Huey” helicopter in support of the U.S. Army’s 4th Division and 5th Special Forces as well as various ARVN units in the mountainous northern II Corps, Laos and Cambodia during the war.
Years after the war ended, the 57th AHC was revealed to be a key player in the then classified super-secret Special Forces clandestine missions that occurred in enemy-occupied Laos. Unit helicopter crews inserted highly skilled teams into enemy areas and often were called on to extract teams under fire in the extremely remote jungles of Laos.
Gladiators and Cougars also supported the 4th Division during some of the most difficult battles of the war, including the Battle of Dak To and the fight at Hill 19 in the mountainous extreme western jungles of Vietnam.
During the Aug. 22-25 reunion, the group of veterans will be staying at the Clarion hotel in Batavia.