Visitors to the Moving Wall exhibit got a a bird’s-eye view of Columbus as part of a helicopter ride that offered plenty of thrills.
The Indiana Air Search and Rescue organization Friday brought a Huey helicopter used during the Vietnam War to the fairgrounds. The helicopter’s appearance is part of the visit involving the Moving Wall, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., that will be on display until 10 a.m. Monday.
Al McKown, American Legion Post 24, said about 9,000 visitors had come to the fairgrounds by mid-afternoon Friday for the activities.
Among them was Debbie DeWeese, who was all smiles as she got out of the 1968 helicopter at the conclusion of her ride.
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She said the aircraft, which was in Vietnam for three years, flew over her house in Columbus, where she saw her husband Bob and her brother-in-law Jim standing outside.
DeWeese said she had always wanted to get on a helicopter, and jumped at the opportunity to do so as part of her visit to the Moving Wall exhibit.
“It’s the most amazing thing ever,” she said of the helicopter ride. “I’ve never had this much fun.”
The helicopter, which has a capacity to hold 13, including four crew members, departed from the fairgrounds and gave passengers an aerial view of west Columbus. Among the areas visitors got to see from the sky were Interstate 65, Tipton Lakes and the Harrison Lake Country Club.
Jim Ogilvie, a retired captain and master aviator in the U.S. Army, said he enjoys being able to share the Huey helicopter with visitors. Many visits are made to the Wounded Warriors, a military and veterans charity organization.
“They really enjoy it and appreciate it, and it’s rewarding that way for us, too,” Ogilvie said.
Thomas Baughman of Richmond was among the passengers who tried the helicopter ride. The 14-year-old was visiting the Moving Wall exhibit with his grandmother, Mary Price, who lives in Hope.
“I was freaking terrified,” he said.
Columbus resident Paulette McClintock also rode on the historic aircraft. Her husband Rick served in Vietnam for five months as a crew chief and gunner on a helicopter.
“It made me think of what he did,” McClintock said.
Rick McClintock said the experience brought back a lot of memories.
“Some good, some bad,” he said.
Seymour resident Steve Engelking, who came to the fairgrounds with his daughter Lisa, said he decided to come to the exhibit to pay his respects since some of his friends are listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The pair also took a ride on the helicopter Friday afternoon.
Lisa Engelking also described the overall atmosphere as part of the visit with her father, who served in Vietnam from 1971-72.
“It’s a very moving experience just to be here,” she said.
Event info: Today is the final day the public can take a ride on a Huey helicopter at the Moving Wall exhibit. Rides begin at 8 a.m. and continue based on demand at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, 750 W. County Road 200S, Columbus.
Details: World War II and Korean War veterans can fly for free. Vietnam veterans will be required to pay a $75 membership fee, which gets them a membership to the Indiana Search and Rescue Association and a free helicopter ride.
Other individuals will be able to ride in the helicopter by paying a $100 fee for a membership and a free helicopter ride.
Noon today: Special music by Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums, national anthem by John Tasca, invocation by John Marquis of Central Heights Church of God, remarks by Col. Roger D. Peterman (retired), taps by Caleb Bray.
6 p.m. today: Special music by Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums, national anthem by Rich Coffey, remarks by Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger (retired), benediction by John Sichting of New Hope Christian Church, taps by Caleb Bray.
Noon Sunday: Special music by Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums, national anthem by Rich Coffey, invocation by retired minister Jerry Curry, remarks by Lt. Col. Kenny Freeman (retired), taps by Caleb Bray.
6 p.m. Sunday: Special music by Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums, national anthem by Rich Coffey, remarks by Staff Sgt. Michael Thompson, benediction by Dan Cash of First Baptist Church, three-volley salute and taps by American Legion Post 24 and 229 color guards.
There is no charge to attend, although donations are being accepted.