After heavy rains in June all but cancelled the Indiana Military Museum’s annual Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Day, museum founder and curator Jim Osborne quipped, “We may just do this whole thing over again.”
And that’s exactly what the team at IMM is doing this Saturday at their 715 S. Sixth St. compound.
Heavy wind and rain washed out most of the plans for the IMM to honor Vietnam Veterans this summer, including the arrival of the war-era Huey helicopter, which was meant to chopper in Sgt. Sammy L. Davis.
Often referred to as the real-life Forrest Gump, a famous scene in the iconic 1994 Hollywood film shows the title character, played by Tom Hanks, receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
But it was Indiana’s own Army Sgt. Sammy L. Davis who was meeting Johnson in that clip — with the face of Tom Hanks superimposed over Davis.
The decisions and actions of Sgt. Davis — one late November night in 1967 in Cai Lay, Vietnam — saved the lives of many American men and led to his recognition by the president.
Davis was to be on-hand in June to meet attendees and sign copies of his book, but a grounded Huey helicopter — and a downed tree limb in his own driveway — prevented Davis from making the trip to Vincennes for the event.
“There are a lot of people that were wanting Huey rides, but we hope to schedule another time that those guys can be here,” Osborne said in June. “Of course we want to do it when Sammy can be here, too.”
So the IMM and Davis worked with Indiana Search and Rescue to settle on the October date to try again.
“It looks like the weather is going to be good this time around. We talked to the helicopter people, and it’s a go,” he said. “Sammy Davis is coming, too.”
Despite the harsh weather conditions and setbacks, the museum still saw nearly 300 people fill the stands for demonstrations and battle reenactments during the event this summer, registering 56 Vietnam War veterans in attendance.
But Osborne is hoping for a larger turnout this time — one closer to the attendance the museum saw for its Salute to World War II veterans this year. That event drew a record number of people, some 3,500, he said.
“Based on the weather report and the many calls we’e had from people wanting to know if it’s a go, it looks like we’ll have a good day,” Osborne said. “I think we can look forward to a good turnout.
“Last time, even with the wash out, we had a lot of veterans show up, and many of the events were able to go on. This time, I expect to see even more.”
Saturday’s ‘do-over’ of the event — which looks to boast sunny skies and highs in the lower 80s, according to the current forecast — will offer free outdoor exhibits, living history displays and the long-awaited return of both Sgt. Davis and the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter — the Huey.
Once the Huey is on site, visitors can pay to take flight in the iconic military helicopter. Rides are $100 per adult, $50 per child and free to any World War II veteran.
Additionally, attendees will be treated to Vietnam battle reenactments, including a Huey battlefield extraction at noon.
Osborne says there will also be vendors and food trucks on site, though lunch will be provided free of charge to all Vietnam, Korean and World War II veterans by the local American Legion.
Vietnam Veterans and their spouses will also receive free admission to the museum and be given a special tag to wear during their time at the event.
“We’ve been recognizing the veterans of World War II — and even World War I — or a long time,” he said. “But it’s really important for us to recognize the more recent veterans who have served, and Vietnam is edging its way into history.
“We want these guys to feel like they are remembered as well.”
Overflow parking will be available at the nearby youth soccer field on Sixth Street with golf carts running to shuttle visitors.
Gates open at 9 a.m. and events run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 812-882-1941.