Vets grateful for Huey mission: Saving lives

Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt, left, and Michael Logan stand together underneath a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter on Tuesday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Vietnam war veterans John Sabanosh, left, Joe Startt, and Michael Logan stand together underneath a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter on Tuesday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — An initial awkward handshake attempt just wasn’t enough.

Meeting for the first time ever, Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt and Michael Logan quickly shared a deep embrace lasting several seconds in the blazing summer heat on Tuesday afternoon.

A UH-1 “Huey” helicopter like the one on display nearby united the men at Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road more than four decades after relying on the aerial ambulance to save lives during combat.

Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt and Michael Logan embrace after meeting for the first time in Dover on Tuesday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt and Michael Logan embrace after meeting for the first time in Dover on Tuesday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Logan was a chopper medic at approximately the same time Mr. Startt was rescued after suffering severe wounds while on a U.S. Army infantry operation on Sept. 26, 1970.

“I was so glad to see you guys,” said Mr. Startt, then a teenaged, grenade-launching infantryman when blasted by friendly fire at a rubber plantation near Cu Chi.

“We did it, you know how it is,” replied Mr. Logan, a Modesto, California resident visiting the memorial with John Sabanosh, a former Huey crew chief now living in the Ocean City, Maryland area.

While two members of Mr. Startt’s 25th Infantry squad died from injuries in the incident and two others were wounded, the Leipsic resident overcame a knuckle blown off his hand, collapsed lung, two broken ribs and shrapnel wounds in his back and neck.

“I’m glad this little girl was there to take us away,” he said, pointing to the Huey perched nearby. “It was our lifeline, it was like a limousine.”

Continuing on, the 66-year-old Mr. Startt regarded Mr. Logan as “one of my saviors.”

Pictured under a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter on Tuesday in Dover are, from left, Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt, Michael Logan and John Sabanosh. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Pictured under a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter on Tuesday in Dover are, from left, Vietnam war veterans Joe Startt, Michael Logan and John Sabanosh. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A shared background

Inspired by a shared background, Mr. Sabanosh contacted Mr. Startt to meet the visiting Mr. Logan in Dover this week.

“John has been talking about the memorial and has shown pictures of it at (Dustoff Association) meetings and it was definitely something I was going to stop and see,” Mr. Logan said.

“It’s a legacy and an honor and pretty moving to see this baby (the Huey on display) looking like it’s coming down to hover and ‘bam’ hit the ground before going up again.

“I’m very pleased the State of Delaware has honored us. It’s emotional, it really is, to see this and (meet Mr. Startt).”

As the veterans traded rememembrances, all choking up slightly at times, Mr. Startt’s 6-year-old granddaughter Isabella waited as patiently as a first-grader could.

She’s one of four grandchildren who might never have been born without the lifesaving air ambulance in Vietnam, along with Mr. Startt’s two children.

“It’s special to see someone who survived and had wonderful results in life,” Mr. Logan remarked.

Mr. Sabanosh and Mr. Logan, now both 70, served together at times on the same unarmed helicopter while in the 45th Medical Company, also known as a “Dustoff” unit.

The helocopter would hit the ground, pick up wounded and quickly depart during a so-called “Golden Hour” where lifesaving began with airborne treatment and transport to further medical care.

“When they heard the distinctive sound of the Huey’s rotors they knew they had a chance,” Mr. Sabanosh said.

Most times, there was little opportunity to identify the fallen warrior before a dropoff and flight to the next danger zone.

“We were shot up and shot down but continued to keep on flying and would never hestitate to go in to make a pickup no matter the probabability of getting hit by shots,” Mr. Sabanosh said.

He believes the transitory nature of air ambulances caused crews to not get their just due as heroes.

The Dustoff’s motto was “So Others May Live” with a mission statement of “We Get a Call, We Go.”

Air ambulances made over 980,000 evacuations in 10 years, Mr. Logan said, describing the seven-day-a-week duty while on call at all hours for eight months at a time.

“Our mission over there was to save lives, not take lives, which was a little different than the typical combat soldiers,” Mr. Sabanosh said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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