Veteran comes face to face with Huey he flew in Vietnam nearly 50 years ago

DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Tuesday was a special moment for Vietnam veteran Tom Rathge.

"It’s kind of like from high school, seeing an old friend," said Rathge.

Originally from Ohio, Tom took a trip to the Wiregrass to reconnect with an old friend.

He flew a Huey 104 with the 191st Assault Helicopter Company.

Tom was at the Oskosh, Wisconsin Fly-In, where many aircraft were on display. One that caught his eye came from the Wiregrass Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Museum, based in Headland. It was in that moment he connected the dots.

"It still chokes me up, because I’ve seen lots of Huey helicopters, but never the one that I flew,” added Rathge.

It was not only an emotional moment for Tom, but for Patty Meek, too.

"When Tom came to the aircraft, he stood there. He was shaking, he couldn't even touch it,” said Meek, president of the Wiregrass Chapter’s Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Museum.

Tom joined the foundation and came to Dothan, he hopes to someday fly in the Huey again.

Part of the heritage foundation's mission is for that history to live on by reconnecting veterans like Tom.

"It brings closure for them. They were here with their family in the aircraft that brought them home.”

Meek says the Huey was recently repainted by Delta. The heritage foundation has had the helicopter at their museum since 1998.