FAIRMONT, Minn. (KEYC) — A Vietnam-era cobra attack helicopter was installed as a new addition to the Martin County Veterans Memorial in Fairmont Thursday.
Since last fall, the Martin County Veterans Memorial Committee and other volunteers have been hard at work with the cobra’s detailed restoration which matches its 1971 likeness.
“We got it a year ago and they gave us a year to do it and we could’ve had it done in a year - it was supposed to be the 13th of June - but they gave us another month because of the virus,” said Tom Wescott, who led the restoration process. “So we got it done in plenty of time.”
Built in 1966, the cobra deployed to Vietnam where it flew combat missions in Laos and Cambodia - even getting shot down twice.
Designated Cobra 327, it was flown by members of C Troop, 7th Squad, 17th Cavalry.
After leaving Vietnam in 1971, the cobra retired from military service but continued to serve in a different capacity.
“Then it went to California to fight fires,” said Wescott. “The reason they used it for fighting fires was that it has some infrared that they could use to look through the smoke and find people. When we got it it was pretty well blistered up. We had Mikes Professional Blasting and Painting clean it up - did a wonderful job.”
The team of volunteer veterans acquired the helicopter from California after contending against five other states.
The rare find is just another addition to the growing veterans memorial in Martin County.
“We don’t want the cobra to be the focal point - we want the wall to be,” said Wescott. “That’s why we moved it back here. Besides, we’ve got all the property and it draws people back here also to take advantage of the whole site.”
Wescott and many other veterans worked on helicopters like the cobra during their time in the service and it was only natural for vets with his experience to lead the project.
“Gee, you know it’s been 50 years since I worked on them, so I said I’d accept with honor,” he said.
After years of military and public service, the old Cobra finally gets some rest.
A dedication ceremony is planned for Aug. 1 featuring military personnel and family members of soldiers who served on the Cobra.