David R. Kink

Posted on April 2, 2010


My brother, Warrant Officer David Robert Kink, died of injuries received in a light observation helicopter (LOH) crash in 1969. He had only been in Vietnam for a month. He was 19 and I had just turned eight. David was the only one to survive the crash – he lived for 12 days before he died in Japan.
David was born Nov. 11, 1949, in Madison, Wisconsin. He weighed nine pounds, 15 ounces and was 22 inches long. He was my parents’ second child and second boy – my sister and I would come later. My mom wrote that her second pregnancy had been difficult and she had spent seven months in bed, hemorrhaging almost constantly. From the moment he was born, David was very special to her, she said, “because the two of us had fought so hard to make it.”
The yellowed pages of his baby book tell me that Dave first sat alone at four months, started walking at eight months, and said his first word, ‘ma-ma,’ at seven months. He was an adventurer and explorer from the time he could take his first step. His favorite perch was the top of the refrigerator, and he knew what the inside of a washing machine looked like by the time he was a year old, since it was his favorite hiding place.
According to my parents, my brother had two loves: animals and machines. When he was six and in the first grade, he convinced a neighbor who owned a motorcycle to teach him to operate it. His proudest moment (and one of my mom’s most frightened ones) was the day he slid to a stop behind her in their driveway on that motorcycle. 
My mom said that David had a collection of Model airplanes and cars as soon as he could read the directions on how to put them together. He had planes hanging from strings all over his room and the walls were lined with shelves and filled with his models. He knew the name of every one of them, and had perfect drawings of the motor parts beside each model. When he was ten, our family moved to a resort near Hayward, in northern Wisconsin. It was there that David shot his first deer, grew to love nature and the wild animals that he seemed to have a special way of communicating with. 
Our family moved back to Middleton, Wisconsin when David was in 8th grade, and he graduated from high school in June, 1967 at age 17 and got a job in a men’s clothing store. Almost a year later, he approached my mom and said, “Mom, guess what? I’ve enlisted in the Army, and they have accepted me as a candidate for Flight Training School. I’m going to be the best darn chopper pilot there ever was, Mom.”
I can’t remember any of the above. Because of our age difference, David’s time in our family home overlapped only slightly with mine. After he was killed in Vietnam, my older brother and sister never really talked about David, and at the time David joined the Army, I was not yet seven years old. So I always wondered what he was like. 
In recent years I have finally gotten to know the brother I never knew in his lifetime. For that I am grateful to so many people. He went through basic training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana and attended flight training at Ft. Wolters, Texas and then Hunter-Stewart Airbase, Georgia, graduating from Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Aviation Course (WORWAC) 69-11. He signed on with the First Cavalry Division, the infamous 1/9th (“First of the Ninth”), Troop C, and arrived in Vietnam on June 18, 1969. 
Just over a month later, on July 21, 1969, he was flying as observer, getting his “scout eyes” with AC John Anderson at the controls and gunner Ed “Mike” Dennull, just outside Phuoc Vinh. Above was John Powell flying Cobra “high bird.” The team began firing at an area that turned out to be a camouflaged, unexploded US bomb. The ground explosion brought the LOH down. David was the only survivor; Anderson and Dennull were killed. It was David’s second mission in a LOH, having flown Huey lift previously. He died in Japan 12 days later, on August 3, 1969. He was 19.
In 1993 I began searching for people who might have known him, in hopes of finding out more about what kind of person he was and what he did in Vietnam. I am very grateful to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and the Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network, an internet group of 300+ pilots and crew members who became new “big brothers” to me. In 1997, I was honored to become the only female, only non-Vietnam Veteran member of this group, in order to help other family members like me who are seeking information about their loved one. 
In my search, I met buddies of my brother’s in flight school; learned after 26 yrs. what really happened in the crash, and discovered the names of the other crew members who were killed. I met Luther Russell “Russ,” the man who was the first one to the scene of the crash and helped put my brother on the medevac. I was finally able to tell him, “Thank You.” I don’t know if I have ever said a more heartfelt thank you in my life.
I met the troop commander at the time of David’s death, Bob Tredway, who became very dear to me. He gave me a plaque that the unit gave him when he left, which he wanted me to have. It was a great feeling when I shook the hand of this man whom David must have respected, and who cared for my brother as one of his men. I became close to Pete Booth, the 9th Cav Squadron Commander at the time. And I also grew to love John Powell, the Cobra pilot who was flying “high bird” on David’s last mission! 
I spent two weeks in Vietnam in 2006, along with John Powell, two others from C Troop, John Mackel and Dave Keel, Jeannie Anderson who is the birth daughter of John Anderson, and other veterans, touring the country and experiencing the culture. I returned to Vietnam in 2009 as one of Military Historical Tours’ co-hosts, with MOH Recipient Mike Sprayberry. Between those two trips, I have spent as much time in Vietnam as my brother David did during his young life. Finally, the word “Vietnam” is to me the name of a country, not just the name of a war.
From the few people I’ve talked to who served with him, I’ve learned that David would have probably made a good pilot had he lived, that he was apprehensive about transitioning into LOH’s from Hueys, that he matured over there and seemed to be developing the ability to handle things under pressure. All these things would never have been possible for me to know if not for my new big brothers.
I never want to forget that nobody HAD to write to me and share their feelings about one of the most intense times in their lives. But I am so glad they did. With their help, I’ve learned there were good times as well as bad in Vietnam, people laughed, threw hats and shower shoes at each other, talked to the Vietnamese, cut each other down, built each other up, developed an internal language and thought process that bound them together completely and seamlessly and for decades afterwards. 
It took me years but finally I made the connections that helped answer my questions about my brother. I don’t use the term “closure,” because for me, as for many families like mine, the subject was “closed” for more than two decades! Now it is finally OPEN and I know more . . . for me, the term is “closer” as it has brought me closer to my brother. I feel he’s proud of me for seeking out his friends and for trying to help more than 350 others’ families to find the camaraderie and healing that I’ve found.  Most importantly, I learned not only how David died, but how he lived. He deserves to be remembered.
I have found that Vietnam Veterans are among the most tender-hearted, honorable, strongly bonded group I have ever known. Knowing them has certainly changed my life, and I would never have dreamed that I would be welcomed among their brotherhood. I consider them my beloved big brothers to whom I will forever be grateful.
Julie Kink
sister of Warrant Officer David Kink, C Troop 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry 1st Air Cavalry
Killed in Action 8-3-69
Julie is a Gold Star member and co-ordinator for the 1st Cavalry Division. A Gold Star member is a family member who has lost a love one in combat. These includes mothers, fathers, sisters,brothers, wives and children. Each year several organizations to include the First Cavalry Division honors the Gold Star Families with breakfast
and or dinners at their respective reunions. If you have had a loved who was Killed in Action let me know and I will get you in touch the right person.

I post this every year. I hope you don’t mind. It’s something I wrote many years back. The 12 days between July 21, when my brother crashed, and August 3, when he died, are always a time of reflection for me.

I had just 8 years of my life to spend with my brother, David. I have spent the past 14 years with you all. I am so very grateful for your open arms and your support as you have helped me learn what David might have been like, had he survived the Vietnam War. Vietnam took a lot away from me, and it has also given me a lot. I am thankful for each of you.

Little sister,
Julie Kink
sister of WO David Kink C Trp 1/9th CAV KIA 8-3-1969

Halfway around the world, as far away in my 8-year-old mind as the moon itself, my brother David was in Vietnam. I hope, now, that it was a good day for him too. Having been at Phouc Vinh for just a month, July 20, 1969 marked his move into OH-6A, Scouts, from the UH-1H lift missions that he had been flying. According to his flight records, he flew 6 hours on July 20. What a legendary club he joined that day.  

Although David was only in Vietnam for a month, he was awarded the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.