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June 4, 1944 - June 14, 2014

at Khe Sanh, 1966

Donald “Donnie” Raines joined the 281st Assault Helicopter Company at Fort Benning, Georgia and traveled with the unit, by sea, to Vietnam. In Vietnam, Donnie was an outstanding member of the maintenance team from 5-66 to 5-67. When members of the 281st formed an association, Donnie became Life member #319. Donald served his country and the 281st AHC well, and he is remembered by the Intruders of the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, the US Army’s first Special Operations Helicopter Company. His obituary follows:

"Donald "Donnie" Raines, 70, of Bear Springs, Va passed away at home on Saturday, June 14th, 2014.

Donnie Donnie Donnie was a Vietnam Vet and served in the United States Army's 281st Assault Helicopter Company in 1966-67. He was a millwright at the Celanese Celco Plant in Narrows, where he retired after 35 loyal years.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Moffett and Bertha Sue Raines, of Craig County and his oldest son, Donald Stacy Raines of Pearisburg, Va.

Donnie is survived by his brother, Ronald "Joe" Raines and his beloved friend and the mother of his children, Cathy Parnell. A loving and devoted father to his living children, Kelly Ann Taylor, of Bear Springs, Va and Aaron Paul "Biggin" Raines, of Rich Creek, Va. A proud PapPap to all of his grandchildren, Alexander Stacy Raines and Brooke Valentina Raines, of Pearisburg, Va. Kayla Lynn Raines of Radford, Va, Shayne Landry Taylor and Braeden Paul Taylor both of Bear Springs, Va. and Zacharia Moffett Raines of Pearisburg, Va. He was also a Great PapPap to two special great grandchildren, Haven Roselynn Taylor of Bear Springs, Va and Mason Gabriel Pollock, of Radford, Va. Donnie loved his friends like they were family and each one held a special place in his heart.

Funeral services will be held Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 2 PM in the Chapel of Riffe's Funeral Service in Narrows. Burial will follow in the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin with graveside rites conducted by VFW Post #6000 of Narrows, and American Legion Posts #68 of Narrows, #311 of Pembroke, and #145 of Peterstown. The family will receive friends at Riffe's Funeral Service Thursday from 6 to 8 PM."

Dave Ragans
September 23, 1947 - May 24, 2021

Dave served in the maintenance sections in 1967-1968. Without the 24/7, frequently unseen efforts of Dave and his fellow maintainers, we could not have performed our missions. He died after relocating to Georgetown, Texas from California.

He will be remembered by the 281st.

at the Wall
Photo from Dave's Facebook page, courtesy of his wife Sheri.

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June 12, 1946 - July 23, 2017

Al in 281st
Al in the 281st (from his book).

Al obit pic
Al more recently (from the obit).

"It is with great sadness the I inform you of the passing of my husband, Albert G. Rampone II, (Major US Army, Missouri National Guard retired). He joined the Army in Nov. 1965; graduated from flight school in 1966; served in Vietnam 3/1967-3/1968 with the 281st Assault Helicopter Company. I don't know the company he was assigned to when with the 281st. He served a second tour in Vietnam with 101st Airborne Div. 3/1970-3/1971. Upon honorable discharge from Active duty in 1972, he joined the Missouri Army National Guard serving as a guardsman and a federal civil service employee until retirement in 1996. Joining the MO National Guard allowed him to continue serving his country and to continue to fly Army helicopters. He truly enjoyed flying helicopters. He was a kind, generous, and humble man who will be missed by many.
We had hoped to join you in DC later this year, but that was not to be. Have fun and drink a beer for him.
Thank you for letting the other 281st Intruders know."
- Barbara Rampone

and from the Daily Star Journal:

"Albert Gaetano Rampone II, 71, of Warrensburg passed away Sunday, July 23, 2017, at his home after a long battle with cancer. He was born June 12, 1946, the son of Albert and Lois (Stranges) Rampone in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Albert graduated from Schlarman High School in Danville, Ill. He received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia College and earned his Master’s in Aviation Safety from Central Missouri State University.
On March 9, 1968, he and Barbara E. Stieven were united in marriage in Jennings.
Albert served in the U.S. Army from 1965-72 as a helicopter pilot. He served two tours in Vietnam from 1967-68 and again from 1970-71. His total flight hours exceeded 5,000 including 1,278 combat flight hours. He received many awards including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, 55 Air Medals (four for valor in combat), and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for Heroism. He was a member of the Missouri Army National Guard 1-135th Attack Helicopter Battalion from 1972-96. He was a graduate of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Albert is survived by his wife, Barbara; children, Albert III (Tracy), Kimberly Adkins, Scott, Jonathan, and Ricardo (Katie); grandchildren, Mira, Albert IV, and Pierce; and two brothers, Richard and Jeffery (Cheryl).
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 27, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Warrensburg, with Father Joe Bathke officiating. Interment will take place at 2 p.m. in the Missouri State Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville. Pallbearers will be Albert III, Scott, Jonathan and Ricardo Rampone, Kimberly Adkins, Al Billings, Michael Ledbetter, Jerry Meisenheimer, and Jim Laas. Honorary pallbearers are current or former members of the Missouri Army National Guard 1/135th Attack Helicopter Battalion. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m.Wednesday, July 26, at Sweeney-Phillips & Holdren Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to APUFRAM International and can be left in care of the funeral home."

July 24, 1946 - December 12, 2018

Aaron Rich

AaronRich Warrant Officer Aaron Rich served in the 281st AHC from August, 1967, until March, 1968 as an Army Aviator and an Aircraft Commander. As a pilot and aircraft commander Aaron earned the highest level of respect from his fellow intruders. He was a quiet unassuming individual who was called on to perform the more difficult missions, which he accomplished in a magnificent manner. His tour of duty ended when his helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission and he was wounded in both legs. His wounds were severe and required that he be medically evacuated. Over the years Aaron’s wounds required several surgeries which impacted his life. Aaron was a gentleman, and a friend to all, and he shall always be remembered by the Intruder family, his obituary follows:

“Aaron was born to George and Marie Rich on July 24, 1946 in Ord, Nebraska. Aaron was the oldest of six children; with three brothers and two sisters. When Aaron was eight years old, his family moved to Sifton, Washington where he later graduated from Evergreen High School in 1964. He enlisted in the US Army in June of 1966 and graduated from rotary wing flight school (helicopter) in June of 1967. At that time he was commissioned to Warrant Officer CW1. He served in Vietnam from August 1967 to March 1968. Aaron was severely wounded in combat on March 16, 1968. He retired from the US Army on medical in February, 1970. By then he was commissioned to CW2. Aaron was devoted to his service in the Army and saddened when it was cut short due to being injured in combat. He stated many times that he would do it all over again and has no regrets. Aaron met Georgia on October 26, 1968, and the two were married on March 16, 1969. The couple had three daughters: Tracy, Ginger and Tina. Aaron and Georgia later adopted Michael in 2003. Aaron is survived by his lovely wife, Georgia; three daughters and one son; nine grandchildren: Bradley, Brianna, Connor, Nolan, Michael, Alejandro, Sierra, Nicholas, and Joselyn; and three great-grandchildren: Bentley, Annastasia and Scarlet Rose. Aaron enjoyed reading, conversations related to flying and loved his family immensely. He had quite the green thumb and during a huge part of their lives, Aaron and Georgia had a garden big enough to sustain most of their family’s food needs. Aaron would garden, and Georgia would do all the canning. Every year, Aaron would make sure his pumpkins were planted before anything else. It was important to him to have pumpkins ready for his grandkids. Since 1977 when his children were in grade school, Aaron started the tradition of hand-delivering a single rose to all his children on Valentine’s Day. This was a tradition he continued with his grandchildren. Aaron was a very reserved and quiet man. He was meticulous and loved everything done to perfection. He was extremely knowledgeable about history and very intelligent in general. He was a life member of the 281st AHC (Assault Helicopter Company) and the VHPA (Vietnam Helicopter Pilot Association). He was a legacy life member of the VFW, through VFW Post 4278. He worked for Horizon Air from March 1984 until he retired in August of 2015. Donations may be made to the 281st AHC Scholarship Fund. Information can be found under “scholarships” at 281st.com. A second options for donations is to VFW Post 4278. These may be sent to VFW Post 4278, PO Box 579, Camas, WA 98607. A committal service will be held for Aaron at 1pm on Wednesday, December 19th at Willamette National Cemetery followed by a memorial service the next day at 11am at Evergreen Bible Church. “


Camas man receives war medal, 44 years later.
Army veteran recognized for 692 hours of combat flying in Vietnam War.
(The Columbian Newspaper)

November 9, 2012. This is the fourth year Aaron Rich has been part of the veterans assembly at his grandson’s schools, so the former Army helicopter pilot figured he knew what to expect. Then two fellow Vietnam veterans surprised him Friday morning at Cascade Middle School, taking care of some unfinished business. Don Ruskauff and Don Torrini presented Rich with the medal he should have received in 1968. Donald Ruskauff, who lives in Salem, Ore., commanded the air phase of a Special Forces operation when Rich was shot down and seriously wounded. Donald Torrini, who lives in Edwardsville, Ill., piloted the rescue helicopter that flew through enemy fire and airlifted Rich from the battlefield.

Forty-four years later, they presented Rich with an Army Air Medal recognizing his 692 hours of combat flying during the Vietnam War. Its ribbon bore a pin with the numeral “8,” showing that the Camas resident earned multiple Air Medals.

Also there was crew chief Jim Rodgers, who freed Rich from the pilot’s seat of their wrecked helicopter and helped carry him to Torrini’s aircraft; Jim is from Clewiston, Fla. Five other veterans of the 281st Assault Helicopter Company were part of the surprise: Paul Maledy, St. Charles, Mo.; Ed Haas, Hartford, Conn.; Ken Smith, Sacramento, Calif.; Ken Hamilton, Salem, Ore.; and Fred Mentzer, Kaiser, Ore.

The surprise was orchestrated by Georgia Rich. She had a simple game plan for keeping it a secret, even as her husband was digging up his old military records for her. “I lied a lot,” she said. He definitely was surprised, Aaron said a few hours after the assembly. Georgia got the idea while they were watching a film about the Vietnam War, “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson. “He got emotional,” she said. Aaron started recalling his own war experiences and then told Georgia that he never did get the Air Medals for all his combat flying. After consulting with Ruskauff, she went to work gathering Aaron’s military records so they could submit the medal request through the office of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.

“I just had to do it without Aaron realizing what’s going on,” she said. So Georgia brought grandson Alejandro (AJ) Navarro — a seventh-grader at Cascade — into the story. “I lied to Aaron, told him our grandson is doing a report in humanities class on your experience in Vietnam. Do you have anything you could provide he could use?” He said, 'Well, my flight records are in the top of the barn, and my Purple Heart certificate is around here somewhere, and he can have a copy.' We get into the barn and find the documents. The stuff was in a cardboard box that was almost destroyed. He goes through all of them,” she said. And there was a memory with every item.

The overall story involved Rich’s role with the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, which was attached to the 5th Special Forces. “We would insert five- or six-man reconnaissance teams so they could gather intelligence,” Rich said.

On March 2, 1968, some of those troops ran into a large North Vietnamese Army force in South Vietnam’s A Shau Valley; aircraft from the 281st were sent to pick them up. “There was a lot of enemy fire at the time — all over the place,” Torrini said. Rich had just picked up a load of soldiers when a machine gun burst hit the helicopter. A bullet went right through a double-layer of armor plate next to his seat. It went through his left leg, breaking the femur, and then hit his right leg, breaking that femur as well. (The bullet is still in his right leg, and Rich is on crutches now because of issues with his left leg.). The impact lifted him out of his seat, Rich said. “My helmet hit the top of the cockpit.” He turned the craft over to his co-pilot, but the UH-1H “Huey” crashed.

Rodgers, the crew chief, said they couldn’t get Rich through his cockpit door, so he pulled a quick-release handle on the seat back and pulled Rich out the main door. Then they carried the wounded pilot to the rescue helicopter, where a Special Forces medic was aboard. Without immediate medical care, “Aaron would have bled out,” Torrini said.

Torrini couldn’t take everybody, however. The men who remained behind took the machine guns off the crashed helicopter, then set up a defensive position while they waited for the next available rescue helicopter. “That was a typical recovery. We did that all the time,” Torrini said. While flying over thick jungle, “you could be engaged by ground fire as you’re bringing somebody in or taking somebody out,” Ruskauff said. “That’s where it made your skin crawl.”

“My longest day was 12 hours and 15 minutes of flying time,” the 66-year-old Rich said. “We did hot refueling — we never shut the engine off.”

If he needed to relieve himself during a refueling stop, he couldn’t even head for a latrine, Rich said. “I stepped on a skid and let it go. Then we’d take off and do it some more.” Under those working conditions, the administrative side of things can get sidetracked, and that’s part of what delayed Rich’s Air Medal. Another factor was his condition.

“Aaron was wounded so badly, we never got him back to the unit,” Ruskauff said. “Under the normal routine, his medals would have caught up with him. It fell through the cracks, and Aaron never got recognition for all the time he flew.”

On Friday, eight members of the 281st came from across the country to make up for lost time. “Aaron was part of our team: a very tight team,” Torrini said. “We’re a brotherhood until the day we die.”


Jeff Murray"

Another Intruder gone too soon. Aaron was a fixture at our reunions and I enjoyed visiting with him. I served in the 281st after him and came home with none of the scars he carried but we were still comrades in arms. He will be missed.


Jack Mayhew

Fifty years ago Aaron and I joined the 281st at about the same time and I had the honor of serving with him throughout my service with the unit. In the Vietnam war, Aaron, along with a few hundred other young men drew the most dangerous jobs of the war; flying and maintaining helicopters that supported Special Operations of the 5th Special Forces Group, who operated in the remote areas of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Within this group of exceptional young men, Aaron stood out. He was a calm individual who believed in what he was doing and took his assignments seriously.

Aaron had a deep respect for his fellow soldiers, without regard to their duty position or rank, and in turn, we all held him in high esteem. He was a team player and could be counted on to accomplish the most difficult and dangerous missions successfully. He accomplished each assignment with the same steady, and quiet professionalism that became his trademark in life.

Aaron and his fellow Intruders wrote the book on helicopter support of special operations. In developing the pages of history, Aaron was a living example of the best of the best. I speak for all the Intruders when I say, serving with Aaron in war and knowing him in later life was a privilege and a high honor. He was our friend and a leader of men that we all respected and looked up to.

We believe that, “A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN”. Rest in peace Aaron; we shall remember and honor you forever.

May 27, 1949 - January 16, 1971

Tom Ridenhour

Thomas served in the 281stst AHC during the Vietnam war and was killed in an auto crash in Missouri. He was laid to rest in the Voshall Cemetery, RLDS, Linn, Osage County, Missouri. The 281st AHC Intruder family shall remember him.
His obituary follows:

"Thomas B. Ridenhour, 20, of Belle, who had been married for less than a month, became the second Maries County auto fatality of this year when his car ran off the road on Highway 63 last Saturday morning, about seven miles north of Vienna. According to the state Highway Patrol, Ridenhour drove off the right side of the road, crashed through a fence, went back onto the road and off on the left side where it crashed into an embankment."

He is survived by his wife, the former Brenda Phillips, whom he married last December 19th, and by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Ridenhour, of Belle.

He was a veteran of 20 months service in Vietnam. He graduated in 1967 from Belle High School. He also attended Linn High School and worked as a construction worker.

September 29, 1950 - May 3, 2000

Gary Riggs       Gary Riggs

Kenneth served in the 281st during 1968 - 1969. His obituary follows:

Gary Riggs, 49, died Wednesday, May 3, 2000 at Dallas Parkland Hospital, Dallas Texas. He was preceded in death by his mother, Nancy Fay (Page) Riggs. Mr. Riggs is survived by his wife, Rossana Riggs, of Mexicali, Mexico; father and stepmother, Doyle Kenneth and Ruth Riggs, Maryville, Tn.; 2 stepsons; his grandmother, Mary L. Riggs of Baldwyn, Ms; 2 sisters, Sheila Shipman of Memphis Tn. and Gingers Harris of Bedford, TX; 2 brothers, Jeffery and Tony Riggs, both of Southaven, Ms; 1 stepbrother, William Wheeler of Dallas, TX; several nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Visitation will be from 12 noon Saturday May 6, 2000 until service time at Cutshall Funeral Home. Funeral services will be 3p.m. Saturday, May 6 with Bro. Richard Denson officiated. Burial will be in Rutledge Salem Cemetery."


January 17, 1935 - May 8, 2008

Larry Robson

Lawrence Robson died on May 8, 2008 at his home in McDonald Pennsylvania. Staff Sergeant Robson was in country when the 281stAHC arrived and was assigned to the unit as a Platoon Sergeant. He remained with the 281st from 1966 until the end of his tour. At the time of his death, he resided at his home in Pennsylvania. His wife Rita survives him.

His obituary follows:

  Lawrence (Larry) Robson, 73, of McDonald, died Tuesday, May 6, 2008, in Canonsburg General Hospital. He was born January 17, 1935, in McDonald, a son of James and Annie Elma Sample Robson. Mr. Robson was a helicopter maintenance chief in the U.S. Army. He served during both Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring in 1973 after more than 20 years of service. He was a member of McDonald Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 567 and Canonsburg Sportsmen Club and a proud member of National Riffle Association.  He enjoyed shooting, camping and fishing. He was interested in history and liked listening to opera and classical music.
  On December 10, 1956, he married Rita M. Heinen, who survives. Also surviving are a daughter, Theresa Ann (Stephen) Robson Rauch of McDonald; a son, Michael Anthony (Tracy) Robson of New Galilee; and an adopted daughter, Lorie Klie of Chippewa.
  Deceased are four sisters, Mary Knapp, Virginia Hull, Annie Elma McCarthy and Margaret Gentile; eight brothers, James Jr., John, Robert, Jesse, Thomas, Joseph, Edward and Fred Robson; and his in-laws, Edward and Margaret Heinen.
  Friends will be received from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday in Nation Funeral Home Inc., 220 East Lincoln Avenue, McDonald, where a blessing service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, May 12, with the Rev. Ken Sparks, pastor of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church, officiating. Burial will follow in National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, Cecil Township.
 Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA) - May 10, 2008

from http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=51641535

Larry Robson           Larry Robson           Larry Robson          

Died after his tour on February 15, 1991

Last known address Knoxville, Tennessee

July 8, 1947 - August, 1972

SSAN issued in 1961 in North Carolina
Buried at the Corinth AME Church, Siler City, North Carolina.
Possible hits on findagrave.com show infantry service in Vietnam.
Infantrymen could extend their tour to be a doorgunner and be discharged from service upon completion of the extension.


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