I have arrived back in western Nevada and will be officially setting out tomorrow. Thank you all for your incredibly touching and overwhelming support in my having to return to Nashville to say goodbye to Kittums. I can’t express my level of appreciation for each and every one of you and your sympathy / sentiments during these difficult weeks…
Before leaving for Nashville, I had the honor of having breakfast with a decorated Vietnam Veteran, Captain Dennis Vehe. Dennis and I, along with our mutual friend CPT Jerry Bell, enjoyed some nostalgia and commeraderie, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other. A thorn between two roses, I assure you…
CPT Vehe served as an Air Mission Commander of the Army Aviator Rotary Wing in the 128th Assault Helicopter Company and was in charge of the entire Combat Assault Operation while Airborne. He has 1,010 combat flight hours under his belt, and was awarded the prestigious Air Medal with Valor. He served 12 months in Phu Loi, Vietnam from Sep ’70 – Sep ’71. The photos he shared truly painted his stories to life.
It was intense and surreal to put his phone to my ear and listen to an actual audio recording CPT Vehe made while firing up his Huey before heading out on an assault mission. To personally be sitting next to him and watching his expressions while hearing that Huey and his voice from 48 years ago was riveting. Every hair on my arms was standing at attention by the end. According to numerous Vietnam Vets, to hear the sound of those blades approaching was to experience solice, even in hell.
“One of the most beautiful sounds an Infantryman could hear. They were our Angels”, explained CPT Bell. CPT Vehe also took these photos while in flight. One boasts a beautiful sunset-silhouetted Huey and in the other, he caught a 2.75″ rocket being fired from one of their c-model gunships during routine LZ prep fire. Incredible. These images are invaluable and it is an absolute privilege to be able to share them.
While home, I received word that a cancerous tumor was discovered in CPT Vehe’s throat – a rare parotid malignancy…. He had begun chemotherapy in Las Vegas, close to the airport, and it was obvious for me to go visit him! 🙂 After many more laughs and stories, we shared a long goodbye…
My current status – heading north toward my leave-off point. There are reports of huge California wildfires that have crept to within 200 miles of my route. The resulting smoke has already found it’s way to me and is rather thick and worsening. My balaclava will be crucial.
One map set, 335 miles, and the last state out of 10 remains. One final massive climb over the Sierra Nevadas, then it is finally “all downhill from there”. Just a quick stop to see some friends I made while in Middlegate last month, then I am rolling out!
The Utah / Nevada blog post is almost complete – hopefully by this weekend. I cannot wait to play show and tell! 🙂
// NOTHING FOLLOWS //