Welche Bedeutung gravierte Zippo Feuerzeuge für Vietnam Veteranen haben, zeigen die folgenden Geschichten:


by Steve Dillman
Gunslinger 39
128th Assault Helicopter Company
Phu Loi, Viet Nam 1/67-1/68

In the gun (armed) platoon it was a common thing to have a Zippo cigarette lighter that had been engraved in downtown Phu Loi with your name, call sign, 128th AHC and an armed B Model UH-1. My engraved lighter is one of my most prized souvenirs from Viet Nam.

I completed my active duty time with the ARMY in early November 1969. Subsequently, I left Fort Wolters, Texas for my home town of Etna, California and actively searched for work as a helicopter pilot. While at home, I participated in the recreational basketball program as a member of one of the local teams. At one of the games during that particular winter my "Zippo" was stolen from my pants pocket in the locker room.

The following spring, April of 1970, I found work with TEMSCO Helicopters and we moved to Ketchikan, Alaska. However, five years later we moved back to Etna, California where I continued to fly helicopters, working for several different companies. At that time, my wife and I became involved in different community affairs, i.e., the volunteer ambulance service and recreational softball which resulted in our family becoming well-known in the local area. I believe that it was one evening in 1985 when I was serving as an umpire for a ladies softball game that I was approached by a lady spectator. She asked if I was Steve Dillman and I told her I was. She then handed me the "Zippo" that I had not seen in 15 years. I asked her how she had come to have it. She explained that she had gone to a church-sponsored yard sale where members of the church had donated items which were then sold to support various functions. It was at this sale that she picked up my lighter. I thanked her and told her how much that little "Zippo" meant to me. I recall trying to explain to her what it was like to serve in a combat unit like the 128th Tomahawks and to be part of the 3rd platoon Gunslingers-- a very special group of guys. I told her that I was very proud to have been in Viet Nam, to have served my country, and that I would go again.

My engraved "Zippo" is even more cherished now (after its 15 year disappearing act). I have told this story many times at the Viet Nam Helicopter Pilot Reunions and it is simply amazing how many other pilots have similar stories to relate.

This is another "Zippo" story about Jay Riseden, Gunslinger 35, 1967-1968 as I remember it:

Jay and I served in the Gunslingers at the same time and flew many missions together-- aircraft commander and pilot, fire team leader and wing man. We Gunslingers were a team in every sense of the word. We flew together, ate together at the 11th Combat Aviation Battalion Mess Hall, and yes we partied together in our platoon club, The Horny Hollow where a large rendition of Warner Brothers cartoon character Yosemite Sam was painted on the wall. Jay also had a "Zippo" engraved with name, call sign, 128th AHC insignia and an armed B Model UH-1. Several years after leaving the Army, Jay was working for the FAA in Eastern Nevada. One day while traveling a dirt road on a fishing trip in a very remote part of the state, the muffler was knocked loose from Jay's vehicle. It was here, forty miles from the nearest paved road, that Jay lost his Zippo lighter while repairing the damage to the exhaust system. Jay recalled that some miles down the road he reached for his lighter and it was gone. After a couple days of fishing, Jay stopped on the return trip where he had repaired the vehicle and searched in vain for the lost lighter.

During the passing years Jay was transferred to the Reno, Nevada area with the FAA. One day the phone rang. The caller asked if he was speaking to Jay Riseden and if he had flown helicopters in Viet Nam. Of course Jay answered "yes" to both questions. The caller explained that he was a resident of Sacramento, California and had found the engraved Zippo lighter near Elko, Nevada. He had found Jay's number in the Reno phone book while visiting relatives. Jay then related to the caller the circumstances of how his lighter had been lost on a fishing trip 12 years earlier. The gentleman went on to explain arrangements he was making to bring the lighter to his brother in Reno who would deliver the lighter to him--( a very "grateful" Jay, I might add).

Now you might think these two stories are just coincidental, right? I personally don't think so! The powers of the universe do strange things sometimes. A third member of this same platoon and time period also had a lost engraved "Zippo" returned-- remember the Gunslingers were/are a "Team".

John Swizer, Gunslinger 32, (1968), lost his "Zippo" from the pocket of his chest protector when he was shot out of the sky by old Charlie. John's UH-1B took several rounds of .51's in the transmission. With low rotor RPM, he hit the ground hard and was ejected, seat and all. The aircraft burned, the only casualty being the crew chief. As Charlie was all around, troops were brought in and a fire fight ensued. As was usually the case, our side came out on top. John was evacuated to Japan, and later to the United States. After several months of convalescence, John finished his time in the Army at Hunter Stewart, Georgia. Just before his tour was up, however, another pilot approached John and returned his "Zippo", more than a year after the crash and at the distance of more than 12,000 miles. Apparently, while securing the crash site and kicking Charlie's butt, the infantry found John's lighter within the burned wreckage and sent it back through channels to the 128th AHC Tomahawks. The CO then researched to determine where John had been reassigned. Subsequently, he sent John's "Zippo" with the next officer going that way.

To me, all three stories speak very well of our fellow man, and say much in regard to our commitment/sacrifice in the service of our nation. I feel that the people involved in the returning of our lighters have shown All Viet Nam Veterans a great deal of respect. These people spent their time and money to find us and return these lost items, so dear to us.

I say to you my fellow Veteran, that we are respected by most of our countrymen and, if given a chance, they will show their appreciation of our service. I believe that these three stories give firm confirmation to this fact. Individually, they may seem insignificant; but within them collectively, the message is clear to me---they truly do care!

P.S. - I offer my apology to Jay Riseden and John Swizer if I incorrectly stated a fact, date, place, name or time. I have written this as I remember the stories as told in restaurants and noisy lounges. My intent is to allow us to remember and share these types of stories and experiences, to see and look for the good things--the service, the caring, and yes, the love that people can and do show, if we will just look for it. 

Jay Riseden 
Gunslinger 35
128th AHC, Phu Loi 67-68
Winner/ Medalist Tet Winter Games 68

Here is another 128th Zippo story that Doc Daugherty posted on the VHFCN server

It was mid 1969 and I had just lit one of the unfiltered Camel Cigarettes, that I had smoked since age 12,and was putting my Zippo back into the arm pocket of my flight suit. The student I was flying decided to do a tap dance on the pedals of our TH55 for some unknown reason and my lighter slipped from my fingers. I immediately grabbed the controls from his hands and rolled the 55 over and down in hot pursuit. I caught a flash of reflected sunlight a couple of times but was not able to pinpoint the landing spot. We were working the Pinnacle area on the Brazos and we spent the rest of his period of instruction hovering the area looking for a reflection or anything that might have been my favorite Zippo. Alas, it was not to be found. At the end of the day, my student got a pink slip and I left in Texas the only thing that I would even consider going back for.


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