Memorial Day is the Nationís opportunity to honor the men and women who have protected the great freedoms we enjoy. Over the years, Memorial Day has become the National Holiday holding the deepest and most personal of meanings to many Americans. On this day we remember. On this day may we never forget.
Christian Eugene Wentworth spent 2 full years in Vietnam after his voluntary enlistment in October 1965. For six months he drove a large truck used to haul the equipment to build heavy artillery emplacements. Gene quickly learned that he was an easy target for snipers. From their perches high in the jungle canopy they would have no trouble piercing his canvas roof if they could hit their moving target. Gene was granted transfer to a helicopter company where he spent the next 18 months of service as a door gunner. There are no known records that officially document the number of Americans he helped evacuate from lonely outposts. At one week-long stretch he flew for 20 hours and had 4 hours to rest before another 20 hours in the air. The dense jungle into which they flew at such close range on their missions often made his twin machine guns ineffective. At times he resorted to his Winchester 12 gauge to pick enemy snipers out of the trees. It was common to fly over enemy territory. Several times his chopper was either shot down or crashed due to mechanical failure. Gene lost many comrades in those ships. He lived in his "Hell Hole" on the edge of life and death for those 18 months because he wanted to do his part.
The reputation of the 170th Army Assault Helicopter Bikinis was well known. The few picked by their peers as the best of the best were known as the Buccaneers. Gene was proud to be selected as a Buccaneer. Their repute was legendary due to men like this who braved their lives to do their duty in even an unpopular war. It is ironic but fitting that the greatest thanks they received was from their own. The respect and love each had for the other was the blaze that kept them hot. When Gene received his knee wound from enemy fire, he didnít have any other thought than to get it patched up and return to the conflict. Years later he found the task of documenting the fact insurmountable. He was laid to rest in July 1997 with many decorations but without his Purple Heart.
May another Memorial Day not pass
before the image of the Father of our Country rests on one of the finest
sons of freedom this country has produced.