Don Sholett, a former crew chief of the UH-1 helicopter which area veterans plan to incorporate in a new war memorial, paints a picture of Casper on the bird's nose during this year's Muskegon Air Fair.

Casper aviation platoon Casper Platoon Story

War Memorial Effort Gets Personal Touch From A Casper Veteran

This site was last updated: 2/15/15


Reprinted from: The Muskegon Chronicle - August 5, 1996

By: Robert Burns, Chronicle Staff Writer

"God's" Little Helper" they called it.  On its nose, next to the name, was painted the image of Casper the Friendly Ghost - which must have stopped many a Vietcong in his tracks as it swooped down from the air.

Few have known it as anything more than another Army "Huey" helicopter from the Vietnam War, and that it is destined to sit high atop the "Final Approach" war memorial planned for Hidden Cove Park in Norton Shores.

It meant something more to Don Sholett, of Sackets Harbor, N.Y.

Sholett was one of the bird's last crew chiefs in Vietnam and one of the "Caspers," the scout for the 173d Airborne Brigade.  The Casper's main mission was to fly troops to areas of suspected activity - and hopefully, pick them up again.

Sholett flew only twice on this particular helicopter, which spent three years in Vietnam as a replacement for one that was shot down and crashed, said Glen Sheatham, unofficial historian for Muskegon-based Chapter 31 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Sholett is now undergoing periodic treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome in a Veterans Administration Hospital.  But that didn't stop him from responding to a call from local veterans.

How Sholett and his old bird were reunited is a story in itself.

Lupe Alviar Jr., one of the Muskegon-area Vietnam veterans spearheading the monument effort, said members of the local group thought it would be nice to find a crewmember who served on the donated helicopter, which now sits in a hangar at the Muskegon County Airport, the number 958 still painted on its tail.

They put a notice in the 173d Airborne newsletter.  Boiled down, said Alviar, its message was: Hey, Caspers, we've got one of your birds."

Sholett responded, and the local vets offered to fly him and his wife, Debra, to Muskegon for this year's Muskegon Air Fair.  And there, as it stood on display, Sholett repainted the name and the picture of Casper on the bird's nose - just as he had done in Vietnam and the seven other "Hueys" in the unit.

"There were a lot of feelings stirred up," he said.  "It's like I was right back in my old platoon," that's what (post-traumatic stress syndrome) does to you.

"But it was a very good feeling.  It's like I needed something from my old unit to prove that I was home."

Following that high point, Alviar and the other members of the local Vietnam vets group have gone back to the job that has engaged them for months: raising the more than $198,000 it will cost to make the Muskegon County Vietnam Veterans Memorial a reality.

So far, according to Alviar, the group has raised $80,000 towards that goal, all but $20,000 of it pledged as materials or services.  All told, 32 Muskegon-area businesses, organizations and local governments have contributed so far.

Alviar said the group had hoped to have the memorial completed by Veterans Day this November, but now have their sights on next spring (1996).

Footnote: The "Huey" was finally lowered onto the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Hidden Cove Park in North in September 1997.