- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Jim Newman, an Army captain during the Vietnam War, stared at the Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter.

“I left a lot of blood and part of my leg in that Huey,” he said.

Nearly four decades after escaping death, Mr. Newman was among dozens of veterans at a dedication ceremony yesterday for a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit that pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of the nation’s battle-worn men and women.

The exhibit, which opens today on Veterans Day, includes more than 800 artifacts — from the 18th century’s French and Indian War to the current global fight against terrorism and the conflict in Iraq.

The war relics on display include the sword that George Washington wore while reviewing troops before the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 and Colin L. Powell’s Army fatigues from Operation Desert Storm.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a Vietnam veteran who received the Bronze Star for valor, helped dedicate the exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“While the uniforms and weaponry of war have changed over the years, the people and the soldiers of this great republic have not,” Mr. Ridge said yesterday. “Out of the difficulties of battle, out of the centuries of conflict and even peace, we have learned that freedom is not a given. Here in the United States of America, freedom is a bugle call, hundreds of years old.”

An .80-caliber British Tower musket recovered from a dead British soldier during the Battle of Bennington in 1777 and a U.S. M-16A1 automatic rifle used by soldiers and Marines during Vietnam are among the many weapons on view.

Other items include missing-in-action bracelets, a Silver Star awarded to a Marine during the Persian Gulf war and a piece of the twisted steel from the World Trade Center.

The exhibit also features firsthand audio and video accounts.

The largest artifact in “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibit is the restored Huey that Mr. Newman flew. The bullet holes from that September day in 1966 no longer are visible, but the memories still are fresh.

“I was about 20 feet off the ground. We had wounded in the back seat, and I had a new pilot with me,” Mr. Newman recalled.

Suddenly, gunfire from Viet Cong AK-47s tore into the copter, hitting Mr. Newman in the left leg and knocking his feet off the pedals. Seated right behind him was Ed Walsh, the Huey’s crew chief.

“We thought we were all going to die,” said Mr. Walsh, who joined Mr. Newman at the exhibit dedication.

The co-pilot was able to get control of the Huey, and Mr. Newman eventually returned to Vietnam for a second tour.

“I never flew in the left seat again,” he said. “I flew 1,200 hours in my second tour and never got in that left seat. And I never will get in that left seat.”

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