FORT JACKSON, S.C. (WIS) - It’s a moment five decades in the making.
Frederick McCarthy put on the uniform he wore while serving in the Vietnam War and laid hands on his helicopter that he flew during his tours in 1967 and 1968. The helicopter is on display at Fort Jackson now, but for McCarthy, his kids, and grandkids, the journey from Seattle to the Midlands to see the helicopter after all this time.was worth it.
“Something about the smell of JP4 and cordite and all of that, just amazing,” McCarthy said.
Despite the pouring rain, McCarthy slowly inspected the helicopter that he flew on countless missions during the Vietnam War.
“It’s like a restored car,” McCarthy said.
It’s been 53 years since he flew the B-model Huey. He became a warrant officer and Army aviator at 20 years old.
“That was absolutely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done and scared to death most of the time but such a stretching experience for my life,” McCarthy said.
After his tour, he went back to the United States and his Huey went on to Germany. McCarthy never saw the helicopter again, but it eventually also made it’s way back to the U.S.
“A friend of mine who is a pilot said, ‘Do you know that your old helicopter is at Fort Jackson?’ and I said, ‘This can’t be true,’” McCarthy said.
He said seeing the helicopter reminds him of his fallen brothers during the war and makes him proud of his service.
“I always thought, you know, if I have to give my life, I’ve given it for a noble cause so I feel really strongly about having done that and it was a game changer for me,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy continued to dedicate his life to public service after his time in Vietnam. He went on to be a kindergarten teacher, principal, superintendent, mayor of a city, and college professor.
McCarthy said one of the most special parts of today was getting to share the moment with his children and grandchildren.
He said today was the first time he had put on his uniform in 50 years and the first time his family had seen him in it.
Officials said McCarthy’s B-model Huey was brought to Fort Jackson in 1977. It is on display in front of the Basic Combat Museum.\