This photo was taken yesterday in Tuscaloosa on McFarland Blvd. as I was sitting at a traffic light. This tank and helicopter are two pieces of the Veterans Memorial Park. I thought it would be a good military tie-in to today’s post.
Today, among the many fallen veterans, I’m remembering my cousin David “Petesy” Mathis, who died in Vietnam. Below is information about him from VirtualWall.org.
Captain David L Mathis (known as ‘Pete’ to his friends) was attached to D Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 1st Field Force, in 1970. He had earned his wings at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 1969 and arrived in Vietnam at the end of October of that year. Although qualified as a helicopter pilot, his training was that of an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, who headed up the crews that worked tirelessly to keep the birds in the air.
On 11 March 1970, Pete and crew chief SP4 Terry Steiner climbed aboard a AH-1G gunship to take it up in preparation of a planned maintenance. There were no known problems with the helicopter, and it was routine for Capt Mathis to take them up and get a feel of their overall operation.
He had just finished firing the guns for a second time when something went wrong. Eyewitnesses remember seeing the gunship tuck violently, then start to recover, when it went out of control and dove straight down. The impact and subsequent explosion killed both men immediately.
An immediate investigation was initiated, and it became clear that the main rotor had departed the aircraft in flight, and as it left the helicopter, it impacted with the tail rotor blades, causing a total loss of control. The resulting impact and devastation of the aircraft eliminated any further investigation to the actual cause, and subsequent research into previous maintenance updates provided no further clues.
He was 24 years old.
A heartfelt and totally inadequate “thank you” goes out to all who have given their lives in service to this country. And a feeling of sorrow goes out to the innocents who have suffered and died in the crossfire and carnage of the beast we call war.