Vietnam Veterans Ronald Hope David Chaffin reunion combat medic helicopter crash

A combat medic and another Vietnam War Veteran he helped save from a grisly helicopter crash had a memorable reunion over fifty years in the making. This emotional moment was made possible by an article in Disabled American Veterans magazine.

A Veteran Story: Vietnam Combat Medic Saves Pilot From Burning Chopper

Combat medics typically don’t know the outcome of the injured men and women they treat.

In fast moving and volatile war zones, medics quickly have to tend to the next person so questions are left unanswered.

Often, these combat Veterans are haunted and left wondering what happened. A half a century is a long time to be saddled with those questions. 

Combat medic David Chaffin often wondered about a helicopter crash in Sông Bé, Vietnam, on July 15, 1969.

He pulled a pilot with severe injuries out of a burning chopper.

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Injured Vietnam Helicopter Pilot Rushed To MASH

That helicopter pilot was Ronald Hope. Unconscious at the time, he was rushed to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) after Chaffin pulled him from the fiery wreckage.

Hope ended up losing his left arm to injuries from the crash. 

“It blew me and the 110-pound armor-plated seat out and twisted it,” Hope said.

“It crushed all of the nerves in the nerve center of the brachial plexus. I was burned over about 60% of my body. I had third-degree burns on everything on the back. I had both legs were broke. This one was compound comminuted. It had a bone sticking out of it. I was a mess. It was literally a mess.”

Chaffin thought he would never know the fate of those on board the helicopter or the pilot he had helped.

While reading Disabled American Veterans, Chaffin found the answers to his questions. The details of a 1969 helicopter crash in Vietnam were eerily similar to what he witnessed.

While the medic’s swift action saved the Hope’s life, two of the other men aboard the helicopter that he helped later died of their wounds.

Chaffin knew the wounded warrior mentioned in the DAV article must be the pilot he pulled from the fiery crash. 

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Vietnam Veterans Reunite Fifty Years Later


A phone call to DAV headquarters in Cold Spring put the wheels in motion. The DAV took Chaffin’s name and number and reached out to Hope to see if he had any interest in connecting.

The two men then shared a phone call, and sure enough, the helicopter crash Hope almost didn’t survive was the very same one Chaffin not only witnessed, but helped the other man escape.

The phone call was a first step, but meeting in person proved to be a challenge that took 18 months to finally happen.

On Oct. 8, 2020, despite the pandemic, the two reunited at the DAV headquarters for the first time since the crash more than five decades ago.

“Well I kind of teared up a little bit, and you know, seeing somebody that you hadn’t seen for over 50 years and knowing that you had a part in them being here today,” Chaffin said.

Eighteen months later and in the middle of a pandemic, these two veterans met face to face for the first time since Chaffin saved Hope’s life.

After a half century of wondering and waiting, you can see this incredible Vietnam Veteran reunion in the video below. 

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