Veterans gather around artifacts, lectures hearkening back to Vietnam

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Jackson Center was full of callbacks and displays hearkening to the Vietnam War Monday morning.

Lt. Gen. Daniel Petrosky addressed the gathered crowd of veterans, families, and officials, saying, "My theme for this talk is 'your service mattered.'"

Now, there's some reverence for service; but that's a new development.

Lt. Gen. Petrosky recounts visiting a friend the day he got back from Vietnam, saying, "We're driving over to his house. He suddenly grabs me by the back of my neck and throws me to the floor of the car in the front seat. I bump my head on the dash and everything going down, and I said, 'What's going on?' he said, 'We're going to pass a demonstration at this university. We can't let them see you in your uniform.'"

But with the power of hindsight, he asks the gathered veterans, "If you did not go to Vietnam, where would our forces be today?"

He highlights one specific legacy, saying,  "In Vietnam, trust was the most important think you owned as a solider. If you gave up your trust, if your fellow soldiers lost trust in you, you were ineffective. And it's trust that still drives our army today."

Another legacy of the Vietnam War that he mentions helped build Huntsville into what it is today. He said, "The leadership from the Vietnam era that came out, they decided we were never going to go to war less than fully prepared again."

Petrosky hopes that legacy holds for a long time.

The evidence of it is right outside.

President of the North Alabama Chapter of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Les Haas shows that legacy off, saying, "This is a UH-1 Charlie gunship that served in Vietnam with the 170th Assault Helicopter Company. Its call sign was Buccaneer-3."

Of course, you would probably know it as the Huey. The group has repaired it to make it a living museum of sorts.

It had quite the legacy on the Army, leading to other important assault and transport helicopters.

You can still see the impact of crafts like the Huey today, like much of the Vietnam War.