It’s official: Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Bridge


The naming of a pair bridges in the Matanuska-Susitna Valey was made final on Saturday, when Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the bill at the America Legion Post 15, with the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Alaska Chapter in attendance.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Bridges — two of them — cross the Matanuska River at Mile 30.4 of the Glenn Highway. One is northbound, the other is for southbound traffic.

Rep. Laddie Shaw, who introduced the bill, thanked House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton for suggesting he be the sponsor, even though the bridges are not in his district; she and several legislators were in attendance, including Sen. Josh Revak, Sen. Mia Costello, Sen. Shelley Hughes, Rep. Mike Cronk, Rep. David Nelson, Rep. Ron Gillham, Rep. Kevin McCabe, along with Shaw and Tilton.

During the Vietnam War, 2,002 helicopter pilots and 2,704 crew members were killed in Vietnam, and about 42 percent of the helicopters ended up destroyed — a total of 5,086. Helicopters were getting their first real test in battle during that war, and the pilots were trained, but no training could prepare them for what they actually had to do.

It was an especially poignant event, with the backdrop of the horrific events in Afghanistan weighing on the hearts and minds of those who attended.


  1. I appreciate his service but will never forget Laddie Shaw voted against the needs of everyday Alaskans to protect “28 year old state workers” (friends or family perhaps) from being laid off while the rest of us struggle.

    Cathy Giessel once said there were things we didn’t know about Laddie Shaw. Appears she was more right than we knew.

  2. Well, the legislature finally got something done, and I say that with all due respect to ALL Veterans. Thank you! Now let’s try to get something done with some substance to it. Copy? Over and out.

  3. Those pilots worked 10-12 hrs a day most of it in the air ? Only days off were if the weather made it impossible to fly or they were wounded or the ships were not fly able.

  4. Another feel good press release from the governor. Andrew is right, now let’s try to get something done with some substance to it.

  5. It’s difficult to feel celebratory while politicians are actively stealing our freedom or standing by while others do it. While politicians and their policies are actually killing soldiers. It’s not those servicemen don’t deserve it, it’s just as if politicians are using this moment for political eye candy. I believe everyone I served with would say the same thing, this is just a dog and pony show, and the show couldn’t have had worse timing. Get back to work and do something substantive to save our freedoms.

  6. While some are complaining about eye-candy timing and lack of substance, I’m backing this move to honor some amazing heroes. Freedom is NOT free – and our vets deserve recognition for their service on our behalf. Our ‘chopper pilots in Vietnam performed very well – often taking fire – in support of the entire effort. The Vietnam war was so politicized and criticized that our Viet Vets are largely ignored. Both they, and we, need this recognition. The Wall in D.C. is not enough to keep their sacrifice alive in our memory. Thanks.

  7. My Westpoint graduate Uncle was decapitated by one of our helicopters while on the eve of leaving his tour in Vietnam, that was 1967. He would be 79 now if he had lived. My husband’s 4 brothers and he were all drafted all served, two came back never the same only 3 are alive today. Most of the people I have lived and loved in Alaska are dead now of this generation, and they suffered greatly. I’m not here to write something designed to sound brilliant. one thing I will say the salami tactics used today by both sides doesn’t do anything but continue the hatred of middle class hypocrisy with their faulty cancel culture on whose right or whose wrong. I guess when your dead it don’t matter.

  8. Great to see the pilots recognized for the true heroes that they were, many of my brothers are alive due to their actions.

  9. Speaking as a veteran the naming of a couple of bridges accomplishes exactly nothing of substance but I wonder how much time and money were spent on this effort.
    Dunleavy and the others should give us a detailed breakout of exactly how much the state spent on this.
    Want to know how we balance the state budget?
    Stop wasting time, money and effort on nonessential things.
    Start saving the pennies and watch the dollars add up.
    This state needs a hardcore fiscal conservative who will ruthlessly slash the budget of all nonessential government services and functions…or who will go down swinging if there are just too many welfare and other parasites in this state.

  10. My father, Willis ‘Pat’ Patterson, who was a Vietnam helicopter pilot, and was shot down three times, died,three days after these memorials were erected. When I came home to Alaska to say goodbye and crossed this bridge I was OVERWHELMED, thank you to the state of Alaska for this honor!!!

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