One day I asked, “Grandpa, why did you join the Army?”
My grandpa told me, “I volunteered in 1967 to go to Vietnam because I knew I would get drafted.”
He was brave to enter the military and leave his safety, home and family behind. There were 500 people in his group and they all took tests. They didn’t know what they were for, but the top 75 had more tests. Then, the top five scorers out of the 75 and the two best scores from those five.
“Grandpa, were you ever scared about the tests because you didn’t know what they were for?”
He said, “Yes, the other guys and I didn’t know if it was good or bad to keep taking tests.” But my grandpa kept taking tests and he was one of two men chosen to enlist in flight school.
Alan Haehle (my grandpa) at 20-years-old was a gun men helicopter pilot. My grandpa was shot down seven times. Five times he was grounded at base because there were so many bullet holes in the helicopter. He was shot out of the sky twice. I asked if he was ever afraid of being captured and he told me, “Only once. I was on the ground. We were about half a block away in the jungle. You didn’t really think about it, you just tried to survive. Being captured was not an option.” Hearing that from my grandpa for the first time scared me, but it also gave me a extraordinary feeling. I was proud to be his grandson. And I’m proud to call him my grandpa.
Later, my grandpa joined the reserves. He continued to fly helicopters from 1980 to 1992. When he was in the reserve, he had the opportunity to fly protection for President Ronald Reagan when he came to town. He was one of three pilots that flew secret service around. My grandpa is one of the most interesting and brave people I know. Alan Haehle is and will always be my Memorial Day hero.