TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- During the Vietnam War, Officer Jimmie Ferguson was shot down while flying an AH-1 Cobra helicopter.
Ferguson, of Bowling Green, Kentucky, survived and was able to see the helicopter restored and dedicated Saturday during an afternoon ceremony held in Tonawanda's Veterans Park. 2 On Your Side's Maryalice Demler served as the event's M.C.
The helicopter, re-christned by area veterans as "Remembering Vietnam," was formally dedicated as the focal point of a new memorial to the Vietnam War.
"This is a homecoming for that helicopter, and for the troops who flew Cobras, who counted on them for air support, who fought our wars while the AH-1 ruled the skies," said VVA Chapter 77 President Mike Walker in a news release about dedication. "It's special, but also symbolic, that the man who was in the pilot's seat will be reunited with the Cobra."
After the helicopter gunship was shot down, it was brought back to the U.S. where it was repaired and returned to service.
It was used in the New York Army National Guard before being retired and offered up as a museum piece.
The helicopter will be leased to local veterans for 99 years through an agreement reached by the "Remembering Vietnam" Memorial committee and Bell Aerospace, a former aircraft manufacturer in the U.S.
The City of Tonawanda provided the site for the display, which includes a wall with messages of thanks to local veterans.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the park about three months ago and the helicopter arrived in March.
The park is located at River Road and Niagara Street in Tonawanda.