There are two sounds that tear my soul — almost literally. One brings me the promise of peace, one readies me for violence. It's the sound of a chopper — in my generation it was the distinctive clop-clop-clop of a Bell UH-1 Iroquois. But There are helicopters that bring the same feelings to generations of warriors.
It delivered us to evil, and it took us to heaven. It could bring hell to our enemies, and bring heaven to our hurt.
The men who flew them were — by and large — not much older than we were. They risked their lives as we did, and in some cases went far beyond what was necessary. We were all in combat together.
We loved them for what they did for us.
It's hard for me to hate the sound of helicopters. I can tell the difference between types. I know which one carries a millionaire, which one carries a Pararescueman, which one is delivering fresh salmon to the Hamptons, which one is a Blackhawk training, which one is on a local SAR mission and which one is spraying for mosquitoes.
But I love the sound of helicopters.
The first helicopter I flew in was an H-13 look-alike — straight out of M.A.S.H. It probably flew in Korea for all I know. Then there was the Hughes Cayuse — a little egg-shaped two seater that could carry four ... if you were small. This was before they mounted us out on the skids. I was transported by Chinooks ... the monster with twin syncro blades .. and watched one break apart and watched the bodies pour out.
And there was the Cobra. Thirthy-six inches wide of death and destruction that oft hovered above us and fired a five meter circle around us just so we could get away. God, they were beautiful. And the sound ....
I've gone into combat on them, been rescued from incredibly dire situations by brave pilots, crew chiefs and door gunners on too many occasions. I've crashed in them and walked away.
You all may not want helicopters to "ruin" your summer weekends, but me? Land them on my roof. Any day, any time.
All I'll do is smile and give the pilot a thumbs up.
There is nothing — for me — like that displacement of air that make a helicopter a chopper. And I'm still here — because of them — to thank God for it every day.