Heather Jenson wrote that her uncle, Ken Swanson of Knappa — who served in the 129th Assault Helicopter Company — went to the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association reunion in Sparks, Nevada, June 14 to 16, and got the surprise of his life.
The jaunt did not have an auspicious beginning, when he collapsed on the first day and wound up in the hospital, but things improved dramatically from there. Ken was going through some vendor booths once he got back to the convention, and happened upon author John Brennan, who was there with his book, “Vietnam War Army Helicopter Nose Art.”
Ken picked up the book, which was open to page 95, and he was utterly shocked to see his photo on the page, standing next to a helicopter with “Windy City” nose art. He was listed as “unknown door gunner.”
“‘It’s me, it’s me!’ I screamed,” Ken recalled. “They must have heard me all over the Nugget.” And he immediately showed the author his tattoo, which matches the one in the photo. “I never saw a guy react that way,” the writer confessed.
“It blew me away,” Ken said. “It’s a picture that was totally unknown to me. I had no idea this picture even existed.” It turns out the photo was taken by a pal, Bill Whelan, who submitted it for the book, but forgot to include Ken’s name. The photos shown are courtesy of John Brennan and Samantha Swanson (more at tinyurl.com/KenSwanson).
“I was beside myself,” Ken added. “I still am. Being published in a book like that. Who’d think, after 50 years, at the end of my life, I’d see my picture in a book.”