Friends and neighbors,

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the grand unveiling of the 1966 Bell Cobra attack helicopter, which will be permanently hosted at the Martin County Veterans Memorial. I am sure many of you have followed the effort to bring the helicopter to Minnesota, and it was great to finally see the result of the hard work of so many people. We all owe a huge debt to Steve Chase, Tom Wescott, the Martin County Veterans Memorial Committee, and everyone else who played a role in securing and restoring the helicopter. It looks great, and we are fortunate to have it here.

The helicopter itself has an incredible history. It served soldiers in both Vietnam and Laos in the late 1960s and early 1970s, having taken enemy fire multiple times. According to the Martin County Veterans memorial page, “In 1971, Cobra 327 saw service in Laos at the Battle of Lam Son 719, one of the deadliest battles of the war. Flying this helicopter were Members of the US Army, 7th Squad, 17th Calvary, C Troop. Cobra 327 was mortally shot, and it was a ride the pilot will never forget. Yes, the pilot made it back alive to this day. The Gunner, unfortunately, died from Agent Orange at age 37.”

After the Cobra was retired, it was put into service fighting fires in California because it was equipped with infrared scanners that made it significantly easier to see through smoke and locate people who were in trouble. In addition, its maneuverability allowed it to land in close proximity to some of those dangerous fires when necessary — you can even still see burn marks her.

When I think of the things her pilots must have seen – things that would paralyze most of us with fear — I feel an overwhelming sense of pride. Pride in my fellow countrymen. Pride in those who displayed a courage that most of us cannot fathom. Pride in the United States of America.

Still, we have to remember that the Cobra is still only one component of something much bigger. The point of the Cobra, the memorial, and the Wall is ‘honor’. Honoring the service and the effort of Martin County’s veterans. Honoring the brave heroes who sacrificed their lives for a cause greater than any one of us. Honoring the history of our armed forces who, in peacetime and in war, have preserved America’s freedom.

I am proud to have such an incredible tribute to our nation’s heroes right here in Martin County. Please go visit it if you have the opportunity.