Steve Maloney’s mixed-media sculpture Take Me Home Huey® is composed of a transformed boneyard U.S. Army Huey helicopter that served as an air ambulance during the Vietnam War. The historic helicopter was shot down in 1969 during a medical rescue in Vietnam. The serial number of the Huey is 67-17174; the aircraft is commonly known as #174. The crew chief Gary Dubach and the medic Stephen Schumacher died bravely during the medical rescue attempt.
The 47-foot-long art sculpture is accompanied by a commissioned song, an Emmy award winning (2018) documentary film, a website with project information as well as educational information about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Taken together, all of the components are a powerful messenger of healing.
Maloney’s Take Me Home Huey® sculpture was inspired by the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War as proclaimed by the President of the United States and the Department of Defense. The artist has been working with Light Horse Legacy, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that restores and flies old military helicopters. The organization’s mission is twofold: encouraging interest in aviation while promoting the healing of Americans of all conflicts who suffer the effects of PTSD. Light Horse Legacy is an accredited partner in the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War.
Light Horse Legacy’s veteran helicopter mechanics previously assisted Maloney with his first helicopter art project “Ride-em-Copter”, a mixed-media sculpture created with a transformed boneyard 1970 Bell Jet Ranger. It was the centerpiece of the Palm Springs Art Fair in 2013.
Shortly after Maloney completed “Ride-em-Copter” the Light Horse Legacy mechanics informed him of the availability of Huey #174, which had been located in a scrapyard in northern Arizona. For Take Me Home Huey, the artist formed a partnership with the non-profit organization with the mission to travel the sculptural installation to bring attention to veterans of all conflicts, as well as to PTSD and the 50th Anniversary Commemoration.
The Vietnam War is remembered as “the Helicopter War” for good reason. The Huey helicopter played a pivotal role serving the U.S. Armed Forces as well as bringing thousands back to safety. The helicopter’s vertical liftoff and landing made it effective for quickly ferrying field personnel, supplies, wounded and those who died in combat to and from battlefields and bases. Along the way, the Huey’s unique insect-like shape and prominent rotor “whomp whomp” became iconic symbols of a difficult period in our nation’s history. For these reasons, Maloney chose the helicopter as the central theme and main element of his mixed media sculpture Take Me Home Huey®.
Illustration by Lauren W. BEchelli
Incorporating and transforming an actual U.S. Army Huey that had been shot down while on a medical evacuation mission creatively juxtaposes the gratitude that many Americans – the artist Maloney included – feel toward the troops. Using the helicopter’s main fuselage as a canvas, the composition includes a “mule pack” of soldier’s duffels, public address speakers and a vinyl wrap of Vietnam Helicopter Squadron names, along with symbolic 1960’s and 70’s pop culture imagery of icons that many soldiers longed for. Maloney conceptualized the art wrap and worked with his studio assistant Lauren W. Bechelli, who beautifully illustrated his designs. The images run along the helicopter’s tail boom and main cabin area. The cockpit reveals a specially designed time capsule of original veteran’s artifacts, along with the abstract suspension of miscellaneous helicopter parts and instruments that were part of the original aircraft.
The sculptural installation goes deeper to impact all senses. Elements of the sculpture literally excite the senses of sight, sound and touch. The documentary film is highlighting recollections from boots-on-the-ground veterans of the role Huey helicopters played in the war effort. The powerful song relates to all veterans. A comprehensive social media site is an active platform to post project updates, educational information on PTS and giving people opportunity to actively take part in community posts.
There is no greater desire for active duty soldiers than to complete their tour of duty honorably and return home safely to their loved ones. Though every “war story” is unique and sobering, there is a common understanding to the phrase “Take Me Home Huey”.
Maloney’s artistic goal is to encourage a healing dialogue bridging the gap between soldiers that risk their lives for their country and society back home. The sculptural art installation Take Me Home Huey® helps to bring awareness and, ultimately, assistance to all veterans suffering with PTSD coinciding with the upcoming three-year commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.