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12 September 1936 - October 1989

WO Gaddis served in the 281st as a "slick" pilot during the early days of the of the unit. Later in his career he served as an instructor pilot at Fort Walters, Texas. He shall be remembered by the 281st family. His obituary follows:

Ronald Oliver Gaddis of Weatherford died yesterday at a Fort Worth hospital. He was 53. Funeral will at 2 pm tomorrow at Galbraith-Pickard Funeral Home Chapel. Burial will be in East Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford. Mr Gaddis was a native of Los Angeles and had been a Weatherford resident for 15 years. He was a retired Army veteran. He was a member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Survivors: Wife, Sandy Gaddis of Weatherford, two daughters, Shawnee Gaddis of Alabama, Shawna Gaddis of Weatherford, and son, Stay Roberts of Weatherford.

Fred Phillips, WolfPack 65-66, remembers Ronald:
I remember Ron Gaddis, a nice guy who was a bit older than we were. He and Tom Buckley flew the slick that snatched Garrett and Oksa out of the bamboo, on Sunday morning, during the Delta operation at Song Be. With my memory what it is I may have him confused with someone else. I do know that Ron was in the 281st in 1966 - he may have come with the infusion from the 1st Cav. I remember Gaddis being in the Tay Ninh and Song Be Delta operations in Aug 66.
Good folks. I miss them.
- Fred Phillips

Photo from finagrave dotcom.

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15 September 1951 - 19 March 1971


Ricardo served in the 281st AHC during 1970 as a Wolf Pack Door Gunner

From: Driscoll, Nueces County, Texas
Vietnam Wall Panel 4W, Line 58

Ricardo is listed both as MIA and Died After Tour because the combat action occurred after the 281st deactivated but before the end of Ricardo's tour in Vietnam. Click here to return to the KIA/MIA page.
When the 281st was phasing out of Vietnam, Ricardo was transferred to the 48th AHC where he served as a Gun Ship Crew Chief.   With the 48th he participated in Lam Son 719 and was shot down while flying over Laos. Ricardo and two other members of his crew were not recovered.  He is still listed as MIA, presumed to be dead.  He was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class.
Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy communications lines, which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift and supporting fire.

Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved into position for the attack across the Laotian border.

Phase II began with an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones. During one of these maneuvers, CW2 Frederick L. Cristman was flying a UH1C helicopter (serial #65-9489) with a crew of three - SP4 Paul A. Langenour, door gunner, WO1 Jon Michael Sparks, co-pilot, and SP5 Ricardo Martinez Garcia, crew chief covering a downed U.S. helicopter during a rescue effort.

Cristman's aircraft flew as the trail ship in a flight of two UH1s on the armed escort mission.  The landing zone (LZ) was under fire, and the pilot of the downed craft was a buddy of Fred's. He worked the area with his minigun while another helicopter successfully extracted the pilot.  Cristman and his crew continued to work the hot LZ while other helicopters came in. His gunship was hit by enemy gunfire. Cristman radioed in to the flight leader that his transmission oil pressure caution light was on, and that he was making an emergency landing on the LZ. This was verified by the lead aircraft, which made several, passes over the downed helicopter. Cristman's aircraft crashed into the ARVN perimeter, and was hit on the roof by a mortar round just as the crew jumped out.
Cristman, his copilot and the crew chief were thrown to the ground, while the door gunner, SP4 Langenour, was able to exit the aircraft and join a nearby ARVN unit which returned him to a U.S. military controlled area. The others remained with the chopper although this was not immediately apparent from the air. The flight leader's aircraft was also battle-damaged, and he had to leave the area.  Another helicopter arrived, and although enemy ground fire was received, made it into the landing zone. Intense enemy fire necessitated a hasty departure, and only two Vietnamese troops were picked up.

During the initial rescue attempt by the rescue helicopter, no American crewmen were seen on the downed aircraft, and no radio contact was established. SP Langenour later stated that after landing, the aircraft received numerous rounds of mortar fire and he departed the area. He last saw all the other crewmembers alive.  Due to enemy activity in the area, no ground search of the site was conducted.
Proof of the deaths of Cristman, Sparks and Garcia was never found.
No remains came home; none was released from prison camp.

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6 April 1934 - 6 November 1999

Dave Gehling

CWO-3 Gehling served as and Aviator in the 6th Airlift Platoon and relocated with the unit to Nha Trang when the Platoon became part of the 281st AHC. He returned to the states in 1966 shortly after making the move. David was born on 6 April 1934 and died on 6 November 1999. Last Residence: 76086 Weatherford, Parker, Texas. His SSN was issued in the state of New York before 1951. He is buried in the Ft Sam Houston Cemetery.

John Hyatt served with and remembers Dave:

I have been looking for some of my old Army buddies and found some information on Dave Gehling that probably should be in the DAT data. Dave was with the 6th Platoon and moved to Nha Trang with us not long before he rotated home. I'm not sure of his DROS, but most likely in June 66. An interesting note: Dave was an AC giving in country orientations to 1st Cav pilots in the summer of 1965. Major Radcliff was his pilot when they received fire killing Radcliff. The 1st Cav base, Camp Radcliff, was named for him. I later served with Dave on our second tours with the 159th ASH BN. 101st, in 68-69. I saw him in Germany in 73-74 time frame when I was Avn Off at TASCOM. He was in one of out units- 22d Avn Det at Pirmasens. The last I had heard of Dave was in the early 90's; that he was suffering from diabetes (maybe having lost his legs) and living in Weatherford, TX. The group picture of the 6th platoon on the Assn web site shows Dave.

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11 January 1949 - 17 February 1999

Silver Star

 S Star Presentation  Bob George


Bob George was born in Johnstown, PA, January 11, 1949. His parents, William D. and Jean L. George, moved the family to East Stroudsberg, PA when Bob was in elementary school. Bob's sister, Nancy, rounded out the family of four. Bob graduated as a National Honor Society student from East Stroudsberg High School, also excelling in varsity sports where he lettered in baseball and basketball. Bob was voted the most valuable baseball player in his senior year. He was also a member of the school's rifle team. Bob graduated form high school with a full academic scholarship to Pennsylvania State University to pursue a curriculum in dentistry. However, he decided to join the Army and become an Army Aviator and helicopter pilot. Bob graduated basic training at Ft. Polk, LA and flight school at Ft. Wolters, TX and Ft. Hunter, GA. Upon completion of flight training, he was assigned to the 281st Assault Helicopter Company at Nha Trang, South Vietnam, which supported special operations missions of the 5th Special Forces Group. Upon his return from the one-year assignment with the 281st AHC he married Linda P. LaBadie on May 4, 1970, before reporting to Ft. Hunter/Ft. Stewart as a helicopter instructor pilot. The couple set up their first home in nearby Savannah, GA. Bob trained South Vietnamese pilots to fly gun ships. He was offered a direct Army commission but turned it down. His wife Linda recently stated that Bob had "already used up his nine lives over there" and by accepting a commission another Vietnam tour would have been likely.

Upon leaving the service Bob and Linda moved back to Pennsylvania where Bob became an engineer with Instrument Specialties, a private company. Bob was an avid sportsman and enjoyed golf, fishing, and hunting. He coached a baseball team and loved playing softball. During his active and busy life he also restored his sports car and he and Linda became fans of NASCAR racing. The couple's last race together was the inaugural at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bob loved to travel the racing circuit. He and Linda also loved their Doberman, TAZ.

The following is a personal written message from Linda, Bob's devoted wife, to a member of the 281st AHC Association's Memorial Committee. "Guess you can tell he was my hero from the 'The Wind Beneath My Wings', Beth Midler's song from 'Beaches'. I never tire of talking about him. Since his death he has received the medal from the Order of the Silver Rose. I don't know how much you all know about Bob's Silver Star. Jim Brown actually put Bob in for the Medal of Honor but because no one was injured they knocked it down to a Silver Star. Jim used to tell Bob that he should have shot him in the foot so he would have gotten the Medal of Honor which he so richly deserved."
Bob George and Jim Brown remained steadfast friends throughout their lives since first serving together in Vietnam with the 281st AHC. They both died of cancer within nine days of each other. May they rest in peace! Bob was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 68, Grave 2745. His date of death was 17 February, 1999.

On April 16, 2001, Bob was among fifty deceased Vietnam veterans honored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for their Third Annual "In Memory Day Observance" for those who died as a result of their involvement in the war, such as Agent Orange exposure, but not as a direct result of combat wounds.

news clip

Bob's awards include, the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with cluster, Air Medal with clusters, Purple hear, enlisted Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and various decorations. he won Expert and Sharpshooter badges for four different weapons and he wore the Army Aviator Badge with pride. (A copy of the award certificate for Bob's Silver Star is shown above. Noteworthy is the personal message that he wrote to Jim "Beatle" Bailey who was the crew chief of UH-1C #520, the Gun ship that Bob flew on the mission for which he was awarded the Silver Star.)

Following Robert's death his widow, Linda became active in the 281st AHC Association and the Vietnam Wall Foundation. In March of 2006 Linda traveled to Vietnam with Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Danny Graves, major league baseball's first Vietnamese-American player, and VVMF President Jan C. Scruggs. A local newspaper ran the following report of her trip:

"Home run for humanity HIT Around the world. Stroud Township woman joins with Cleveland Indians pro player to bring baseball to Vietnamese children".

For the Pocono Record
March 28, 2006

This time of year, many college students travel all over the globe on Spring Break vacations, visiting family or providing service. Even though she's no longer in school, Linda George took a notable service trip of her own this year.

The Stroud Township woman traveled to Vietnam on the Bringing Baseball to Vietnam delegation sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The delegation stayed in Vietnam Jan. 17-25 and was co-hosted by Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Danny Graves, major league baseball's first Vietnamese-American player, and VVMF President Jan C. Scruggs. The trip was part of an MLB effort to introduce baseball in the country and help strengthen relations between Vietnam and the United States. The experience was documented and featured on the March 7 edition of the HBO program "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
"It was very rewarding," George said. "The kids had a wonderful time. Thousands of kids were there. They flipped when Graves hit the ball at the clinic. They just loved him. He was so good with the children. The whole trip was heartwarming. What I thought would be a difficult experience was wonderful."

The kids knew absolutely nothing about baseball, George said. The delegation literally started from scratch. According to the VVMF Web site, the group dedicated the first ever baseball field in the country, at Le Hoi High School in Dong Ha. The delegation also donated more than $60,000 worth of sports equipment, apparel and donations to establish baseball. Finally, the group held an exhibition game and a clinic for children to get hands-on experience with the sport. For many Vietnamese participants, it was their first look at baseball.

George, unlike Graves, never played in a professional baseball game. Rather, she was asked to be part of the delegation by VVMF because of her involvement with the organization following the death of her husband, Bob. George's husband was a decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, a disease associated to the herbicide Agent Orange which was used to clear trees of foliage during the war. Two years later, he died in February of pneumonia.

Not one to let his memory fade, George stepped up to the plate and excelled in her involvement with VVMF.

"Last year I was the guest speaker at a memorial service in April," George said. "One thing led to another, and I was asked to go."

As active as George was with VVMF, going to Vietnam on this baseball initiative was a new experience for her to contemplate.

"I thought about it for a few weeks, and said, yeah, it's something I want to do," George said. "My husband was an avid baseball fan. He coached Teener League in the community. It would be cool to go for that as well as to see the places he was during the war. It was a sad time, yet a wonderful experience to meet the children who really know nothing about the war or about baseball."

In addition to the baseball aspect of the trip, George and VVMF also took the trip as an opportunity to raise awareness of Project RENEW. Project RENEW is a mine-action program sponsored by VVMF to remove artillery left in the ground since the war. According to George, the project has removed roughly 350,000 tons of artillery.

"Two weeks prior to coming, a bomb exploded under the home of a couple whose whole area was rice farming," she said. "There is so much stuff in the ground they can't do that. Project RENEW taught them to be mushroom farmers, and they can do that in their homes."

During this particular trip, the project also came to the financial aid of the unfortunate farmers.

"The CEO of E*trade Dr. Christos M. Cotsakos was also on the trip," George said. "He donated $50,000 to start with, and he then gave the man and woman who lost their home the money for a new home. People don't know these things are going on, but it's really something to be commended."

George continues to be involved with VVMF, and since major league baseball is interested in continuing the sport in Vietnam, another trip with the Bringing Baseball to Vietnam delegation could be in her future.

"We're talking about going back with MLB; I'll probably be part of the delegation," she said. "I stay in touch with Danny, but he's at spring training, so it's difficult - though I do talk to his mother every couple of weeks."

On the net: www.vvmf.org



Stroudsberg Remembers

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November 19, 1943 - August 11, 2015

Jim Ghezzi>

Originally from Highland Park, Michigan, Jim served in the 281st from 1968 to 1969 as the finance clerk. After discharge, he earned a college degree from Woodbury University and served as an officer with the Burbank Police Dept. After retirement from the Department, he worked at Lockheed Martin.

His partner in a marriage of of many years, Denise, died in 2019 in their community of Duarte, CA. They are survived by daughter Dani and son James, Jr. and grandchildren.

Officer Jim Jim on the way   Jim, Burbank PD (L), and just before we met him.

For more pics and info: https://www.facebook.com/jim.ghezzi/

SP4 John W. Gibson III
May 26, 1945 - August 24, 2003

John W. Gibson

John lived in Johnson City, TN and as a young man served in the 281st AHC.
His Burial was in the Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City, TN.
He shall be remembered by the Intruder family..

July 21, 1947 --- August 9, 1983

James served in the 281st AHC in Vietnam and is interred in the Greenlawn, 
Cemetery, Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York.

James shall always be remembered by the Intruder Family.

October 20, 1950 --- June, 1980

SSAN issued in Illinois

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June 20, 1943 - June 1, 2020

Johnnie Gilreath served in the 281st AHC as the 1st Platoon (Rat Pack) Commander from May, 1969 until May, 1970. Johnnie was a former Special Forces Soldier (E7) with SOG experience. While serving in the Special Forces, he received a direct commission and immediately applied for flight school. Following flight school, his initial assignment was the 281st AHC, where his commander, Major Darryl Stevens, considered him to be a strong and effective leader who took great care of his troops. As a Platoon Leader, Johnnie was held in high esteem by his enlisted men and his Intruder aviators. Their mission was supporting the elements of the 5th Special forces Group and units of the South Vietnamese Army. Johnnie was a member of the 281st AHC Association. His obituary follows:

"Johnnie was a retired U.S. Army Infantry Lieutenant Colonel with over 26 years of dedicated service.

Johnnie is survived by his wife Elke Gilreath; who wrote: “My beloved husband Johnnie, my best friend, partner of 52 years of marriage, my love for you has grown greater each day and will be forever, until we meet again!" - Elke. He is also survived by a brother, Richard Douglas Gilreath and numerous other family members.

Celebration of Life Service was held Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at 1:00 PM at the Chapel of Neal-Tarpley-Parchman Funeral Home. In Clarksville, TN."

April 22, 1945 -- May 26, 1996

SP-4 Bennie J. Goins arrived in Vietnam on February 26, 1966 and spent his entire tour with the 281st AHC as a helicopter crew chief. Bennie was on a extraction mission in August 1966 when he won the Purple Heart medal for a left leg injury and a broken right middle finger due to a crash landing all the while he was still firing at the enemy. According to the pilot of the mission, Major Reino Oksa, he asked Bennie if he could still shoot because he noticed Goins' right finger severely out of alignment. Bennie replied, "You better believe it." Major Oksa has stated that SP-4 Goins was his crew chief on a number of missions explaining that Bennie was not only a outstanding crew member who always kept his assigned helicopter in A-1 condition but trained the infantry door gunner to become an assistant helicopter crew chief. Major Oksa also stated that Bennie was an excellent marksman with the M-60 machine gun fired from the open doors of the helicopter.

In addition to his Purple Heart Bennie was awarded the air medal, with six clusters, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with silver star. Upon leaving the service Bennie lived with his family at 288 Wilmouth Road, Sanford, NC. He fathered two boys and 3 girls. Bennie passed away on May 26, 1996 due to a heart attack. He was buried at the Center United Methodist Church Cemetery in Sanford, NC. The above data was provided by Janette Hearn, daughter of Bennie and Reino Oksa former Platoon Commander and Executive Officer of the 281st AHC. Bennie's son's address is:

Bennie Goins (Son)
288 Wilmouth Road
Sanford, NC 27330-7569
Tel: 919-775-1265

findagrave.com id #83373489, photo by SF SGM Horne

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26 September 1949 - 16 July 1978
Gunner, 69/70 Bandits/ Wolf Pack

George, an accomplished jockey, was Injured in racing accident and died a month later. George was from Guam and never saw a horse or wore shoes until he joined the Army. Following his first tour in Vietnam George went to the Pentagon to request that he be allowed to return. In December of 1969 he joined the 281st where he served his second tour. When he was discharged he went to live with the family of Doug Powel who had been his buddy in the 281st. Doug's father took George under his wing and introduced him to the horse racing industry. At 4'11" inches and 105 pounds George went on to become a record breaking jockey at Calder Track in Florida. George was buried at Hialeah Vista Memorial Gardens, Hialeah, FL. His wife Sharon a daughter Melanie and a son Robert survive him.

Gomez Article

February 17, 1936 - July 21, 1991

Jim joined the 281st AHC in Fort Benning Georgia in 1966 and traveled to Vietnam with the unit the same year.  He was an experienced pilot assigned to the Wolf Pack where he distinguished himself and provided valuable leadership to the younger inexperienced crewmembers.  He completed a one-year tour and returned Hunter AAF for duty as an instructor in the tactics department.  He completed a second tour in Vietnam and returned to Fort Carson, Colorado where he retired in 1981.
LTC Good was born on 17 February 1936 and died on 21 July 1991 at age 55.   He was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery, in Denver, Colorado with full military honors.

Jim was one of the original Intruders and we shall not forget him.

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Served as the Wolf Pack Platoon Sergeant from 1969 - 1970
on his second tour of duty in Vietnam

Donal served in the 281st as Platoon Sergeant of the Wolf Pack during 1969 to 1970, including the rocket attack at Pleiku. He had taken the mission himself to provide replacements rather than sending others. While wounded, he was among the survivors. According to his wife in letter to the Centaurs, the incident stayed with him.
The 281st was his second tour of duty in Vietnam; in 66-67 he was a door gunner in D Troop (Air), 3/4 Cav, 25th Inf. Div, later reflagged to F Troop, 4th Cav., The Centaurs.

The obit:
Mr. Donal Eugene Goode age 61 of Jasper, passed away Friday September 18, 2009 at his home. Mr. Goode was born May 18, 1948 to the late Eugene Key Goode and Mary Ruth Padgett Goode. He enlisted in the United States Army on August 22, 1968. While serving his country in Vietnam he earned three purple hearts, three bronze service stars, an Army Commendation Metal, and an Air Metal with V Device. He was also a Green Beret. He was a member of the Amicalola Baptist Church in Dawson County and was self employeed as a truck driver. He is survived by his wife Margaret Goble Goode, Sons: Anthony Donal Goode, Jasper, Gregory Scott Childers, Ellijay, Christopher Todd Childers, Daughter, Mary Katherine Kleinberg, Jasper, Sisters, Joyce Hagin, Madison, and Pamela Cataldi, Jasper, Brothers, Terry Goode, Jasper, and David Goode, South Carolina, Granddaughters, Madelyn Louise Goode, Erin Marie Goode, Tori Kleinberg, and Addi Kleinberg all of Jasper. Funeral Service will be 11 AM Monday at the Jasper United Methodist Church with Rev. Chip Wilson officiating. The interment will follow at 10 AM Tuesday at the Georgia National Cemetery. The family will be receiving friends after 9 AM Sunday Morning and Monday until the funeral hour.
-from the Roper Funeral Home thru the Centaur website.

Click to see the complete memorial at the Centaur website

He shall be remembered by the 281st always.

Paul hs pic
August 19, 1946 - October 3, 1969
Died while flying a Mohawk after his tour with the 281st

CPT Graffe died at age 27 while piloting OV-1 Mohawk SN 61-02679 for the 225th Aviation Company on a surveillance mission out of Phu Hiep, RVN, on 3 October, 1969, crashed at the 7,000 ft. level of a mountain peak north of Kontum, in inclement weather. Capt. Graffe was accompanied by his observer, PFC Kenneth L. Cunningham. Both crew members are still listed as MIA. The aircraft, call sign, Phantom Hawk 01, departed Phu Hiep during the early evening hours on a mission to gather intelligence in Military Region II in the Dak To-Dak Pek area which was believed to be heavily infested with enemy forces. The last radio contact with the crew had been made by another OV-l crew who said that Graffe had advised them that he was extending his mission for 30 minutes before returning to base. The aircraft was located on October 5th. Search teams could not reach the area on the 5th and 6th of October due to extremely bad weather. A search aircraft and crew reached the area on the 7th. However, because of enemy activity and evidence that the wreckage had been moved about since the last aerial sighting, the search was aborted. Capt. Graffe had served a previous tour in RVN in 1966 with the 281st AHC when he was a Warrant Officer. During his tour with the 225th OV-1 CO he received a direct commission to first lieutenant on July 18, 1969. He was promoted to Captain posthumously. His date of birth is August 19, 1946. His home of record is Shelton, WA. For further details from the 225th Aviation Company's daily log go to The Virtual Wall web site and follow the instructions to CPT Paul Leroy Graffe.

Capt. Graffe is listed on Panel 17W, Row 34 on the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall.
Our own James Hyatt remembers serving with Paul at Ft. Rucker where they were both helicopter IP's prior to Paul's orders to OV-1 transition.
Fred Phillips also contributed to this memorial.
Photo from findagrave.com memorial id 67916335.

November 17, 1941 -- April 28, 2015

Donald Green

Donald joined the 281st on 12-69 and served as a Bandit pilot until 11-70. Donald retired from the US Army in February of 1981 as a Chief Warrant Officer 3. The Intruder family shall remember him. His obituary follows:

“Retired CW3 Donald L. Green, 73, of Raeford, passed away on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in his residence. He was born in Charlotte, Nov.17, 1941, to the late Mr. and Mrs. Roy Lee and Dorothy Green. He was preceded in death by his stepfather, Master Sgt. George Levasseur. Don had the privilege of serving alongside of his stepfather as a Special Forces Green Beret in the U.S. Army, before becoming a chief warrant officer and a flight instructor at Hunter AAF, Fort Rucker, Ala. He served honorably from Aug. 24, 1959 to February 28, 1981. During this time he earned a Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Parachutist Badge and the Army Aviator Badge. He is survived by his son, Anthony Green and wife, Michele; A memorial service officiated by Chaplain RoyHill was held on May 8, 2015, at noon in Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake, NC.”

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January 5, 1949 --- January 5, 2001

Mike Green

Michael F. Green of Baltimore, MD served in the 281st AHC in the Vietnam war.
He passed away on Jan 5, 2001 and was laid to rest with military honors at the Garrison, Forest Maryland Veterans Cemetery, Owings Mills, Maryland. 
Michael shall be remembered by the 281AHC family.

Died after his tour on March 9, 2004

Andrew Gray

A Turner Oil Field Service employee and member of the Coastal Bend Water Activities Association, died March 9, 2004. He was 58. Survivors include his wife, Becky; a daughter, Crystal Fox of Bluntzer; a son, Andrew Grey Jr. of Corpus Christi; and two grandchildren. Funeral services were held March 12 at Sawyer-George Funeral Home with burial at Memory Gardens Cemetery.

From Gary Stagman:

Grey was my running buddy when we went to Vietnam on the USNS Breton. He was a very good guy, always serious but could get a laugh or two out of him at times. He had gotten married in 1965 before he reported to Fort Benning to join up with the 281st, 483rd and 499th. I always for some reason thought he was a TI, but was told that he was a Prop and Rotor man.

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October 25, 1942 --- July 9, 2008

Died at age 65 in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana 46327
SSAN issued in Michigan
Born on the Greek island of Crete.

10 July 1947 - June 1988

SSAN issued in Georgia; Steve was from Atlanta.
Served with the 281st AHC as an armorer in 1967.

May 14, 1949 - January 31, 2022

Rat Pack Crew Chief
January to October, 1970

On January 31, 2022, MANUEL GUTIERREZ, JR. departed peacefully from our lives at home surrounded by loved ones. “Chinike” was born in Raymondville, Texas on May 14, 1949. In 1957, the family relocated to New Mexico and made their home in the Mesilla Park area. It was here in Las Cruces he met the love of his life, Martha Varela, who he later married on April 15, 1972. Together they spent 49 years building a family and a future for their children and grandchildren. Chinike is preceded in death by his parents; his one and only son Xavier Gutierrez on January 19, 2022; his younger sister Elva Cadena (son, Marcos Cadena). Chinike is survived by his sister Delia and Mike Rivera of Clarksville, Tennessee (children, Michelle and Michael D.). He is also survived by his wife Martha and daughters, Victoria and Marta Elena and grandchildren, Lauren, Xavier Jr, Andrew (Peanut), Carlo and Alani.

Early life for Chinike was one of humble beginnings as his family worked the agricultural fields until his father joined the United States Army and later moved to New Mexico to work at White Sands Missile Range. In 1944, while fighting in WWII, Chinike’s father was wounded and earned a Purple Heart for his bravery. Chinike was proud of his father’s service and decided to follow in his footsteps by serving his country. At the young age of 17, he voluntarily enlisted in the United States Army. After his first tour, he reenlisted and was sent to fight in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970. While enlisted, he was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Savannah, Georgia; Nuremberg, Germany; Korea; and Nha Trang, Vietnam. In Vietnam, Chinike was assigned to the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, the U.S. Army’s first special operations helicopter company. The 281st consisted of three platoons and Chinike was a door gunner for the first platoon nicknamed the “RAT PACK”. The RAT PACK was a lift platoon responsible for transporting troops and supplies by UH-1 Huey Helicopter. A door gunner’s duty was to draw enemy fire and then pull away allowing gunships to do their job. He participated in over 25 aerial missions over hostile territory in support of these operations and was awarded by Direction of the President, the Air Medal. This was one of various awards, medals, citations, and commendations that he received during his career, although he never spoke of them. In 1970, while serving in the Vietnam War Chinike received an award for “outstanding duty as a Crew Chief in the Rat Pack, the finest flight platoon in the Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia”. During wartime, helicopter crews and their door gunners were known for their courage - life in this unit was hard and the action came fast. Life expectancy for a Huey pilot and their door gunners was said to be short, yet Chinike made it home to continue his service to his country.

Upon his return from the war, Chinike remained on active military duty until 1974. He then served 20 years retiring in 1994 as an E6 Staff Sergeant with the National Guard Headquarters Battery 2nd Battalion 200th working as a repairman, recruiter, and first cook. During those years, he was also employed as a sheet metal mechanic at Biggs Airfield. He went on to work with the Department of Air Force also as an aircraft mechanic and eventually transferred to the Department of Army – White Sands Missile Range Army Air Operations where he began as a mechanic and worked his way up to a Flight Engineer and Crew Chief, retiring in March of 2005. Despite a 10th grade education, Manuel was motivated by his admiration for aviation and in August of 1992 he received an Associate degree of Applied Science and Aviation Maintenance Technology from Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell, New Mexico. As a Flight Engineer, Chinike assisted pilots in command and performed numerous flight related duties. It was his time with Army Air Operations as a Flight Engineer and the countless missions that he really enjoyed. He often reminded us not everyone is fortunate enough to say they love what they do for a living, and he truly did. Huey helicopters and aviation were one of his loves, but his true love was his family. Despite the absolute love he had for his job working on helicopters and going on flight missions, he retired and took on the role of grandpa like no other.

Manuel Gutierrez, Jr. will be remembered as a proud combat veteran with over 31 years of federal service, but above all he will be remembered by his family as a protector and a provider, and our HERO. Grandpa we will forever miss your witty and clever ways, your unique humor, your no- excuse get it done mentality, your card tricks, your support at all sports events, your trips down memory lane, your daily calls to “stop by and eat”, your red chile meat and posole, our yearly family pecan harvests and the list goes on. You will forever be our coach, mechanic, tutor, cook, comedian, disciplinarian, and most importantly our foundation, the one who instilled pride and life lessons in our family that will live on for generations to come. As the RAT PACK believed “you have never lived until you've almost died. For those who fight for its life has the flavor that the protected will never know”. You lived your life your way – our love and respect for you cannot be described in words. As we say goodbye – know that we are so proud of you and are forever grateful for your service to our country and even more so your selfless dedication to your family.

Chinike was laid to rest at the San Albino cemetery in Mesilla. Family and friends are invited to gather afterwards at the Beverly Hills Hall in Las Cruces.

The findagrave page is not final as of this writing.


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