Reader's Comments

Al Brown      Aptos, CA
I was operations officer when this tragedy occurred.  It was the hardest thing I had to do in Vietnam, identify people from our unit that had been KIA.  Leslie was also a room mate in my hooch.  We had many conversations, especially when he went on R&R and came to the states to visit for the three days.  That is all he could talk about when he got back to the company, being able to see his family.  We all will surely miss him and we will toast him at the VHPA Convention in August. God Bless you Leslie Douglas.

Kevin R Morin       Leominster, Ma
To all the men that lost their life that day,I commend you for your service and paying the ultimate sacrifice with your lives. To John Goosman,I am proud to know you and have you as a friend and I am proud of what you did that day. It is because of men like you that we live FREE!

John Goosman     Orange CA
Lt. Leslie Forrest Douglas will live within me as long as i am living on this planet; My only regret on 30 June 1970 deep in the Cambodian Jungle is the fact that i was not able to get 1st. Lt. Richard Dyer co-pilot, SP-5 John L. Burgess crew chief and SFC Colon Diaz Infantry out of the HUEY before the explosion; i have lived with this regret all of my life. These brave men with their pilot skills and mechanical abilities were able to perform great skill in controlling the burning HUEY from about 2200AGL to the point of impact into triple canopy jungle, I owe Lt. Douglas, Lt. Dyer, SP Burgess a debt i can not pay; Like Kim the only thing i can do is live life to make them proud. My house will honor the sacrifice any person who wears the uniform that represents our Military and every family member who lost a loved one protecting the Honor of the greatest nation this United States of America.

Any Veteran or active duty military person who has lost a fellow comrade while in the service of our Country I hope you will take one of the time and effort to seek out family members and give them the best gift you can; someone cares for them, you understand their loss.

God Bless you Kim you have given me the greatest gift anyone could ever have your love.

James Hatfield      Independence,Missouri
What a very touching story. 65/68

Harold Kelley     Shannon-Brewer MS
Leslie was a real good friend

Dalton Anthony     Tupelo MS
Leslie Douglas and I graduated from high school together. I remember him being very friendly. He was very smart and excelled in academics. He had many friends. I remember learning of his passing and was very sad. He gave his life for freedom and he deserves all our thanks for his service. God bless you as you remember your wonderful father.

Merrill Scott     Tupelo MS
Not only do the men and women of the military make sacrifices but their families are touched in ways we will never comprehend.

1st Lt. Leslie Douglas
Verona, MS

Kimberly Douglas Sistrunk of Tupelo shared a special bond with her father Leslie Douglas. They were both born on the 7th of July. On July 7, 1969, 1st Lt. Leslie Douglas held his baby daughter for the very first time. It was the best birthday gift any first time father could ask for. For the next month he loved and doted over her, enjoying time with his wife Linda and their little girl. But when the month ended, he was sent to Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division for a one year tour of duty. He was scheduled to return in August 1970. 

1st Lt. Douglas was a helicopter pilot and flew the UH-1 Huey. He was a gifted pilot who was always willing to help anyone in his company. On June 30, 1970, the pilot scheduled to fly that day pulled out of that morning’s mission for health reasons.  1st Lt. Douglas stepped in for him. It was to be a “command and control” mission close to the Cambodian border, but the helicopter never made it. It was shot down by enemy fire.

The door gunner, Private First Class John Goosman, survived the impact. He freed himself from the wreckage then pulled 1st Lt. Douglas from the helicopter. He carried him 50 feet away when the helicopter burst into flames. The three men remaining inside all perished. PFC Goosman held 1st Lt. Douglas in his arms until he died a short while later.  Leslie Douglas died one week short of his daughter’s first birthday and one week short of his own.

Back home in Verona, Mississippi, Linda Douglas was making plans for her daughter’s first birthday. What was supposed to be a celebration of Kim’s first year of life turned into a commemoration of the loss of Leslie Douglas. For the rest of her life, the week of Kim Sistrunk’s birthday would always be linked with the week of her father’s passing. At times, the burden of never being able to know her father was hard to bear. She would soak up every possible opportunity to learn more about his life from the people who grew up with him and knew him.

Four men have been particularly important in helping Kim connect with her father. The first is John Goosman, the sole survivor of the crash that claimed her father’s life. That fateful day he sat in the door gunner’s seat. The very first mission John Goosman ever flew on in Vietnam was piloted by Leslie Douglas. The second is Jim Coleman, a fellow helicopter pilot with Leslie Douglas. The two men made a promise to each other that if something happened to one of them in Vietnam, the other would go and talk to their family. The third man, Randy Clark, was a friend of Leslie Douglas in Vietnam and flew with him. The fourth is Bob Lunde, who was also a helicopter pilot that flew with Leslie Douglas on numerous occasions. All four men have played a major role in helping Kim find a bit of healing. John, Jim, Randy and Bob serve as a “band of fathers” for the daughter of their friend, Leslie Douglas.

Several years ago, three of the four men from Leslie Douglas’ life reunited with his wife and daughter for a special ride in the same helicopter he used to fly. Kim took the pilot’s seat, the same seat her father had sat in over 30 years before. John Goosman went to the door gunner’s position, although there were no guns on this flight. Randy, Jim and Linda crawled in the back as well. Together, the five of them flew over the treetops of Mississippi in much the same way that the 3 men had flown over the treetops of Vietnam. There were smiles throughout the helicopter, but there were also tears. Kim said she could feel her father’s presence with each one of them.

When they brought the helicopter down, Kim, Linda, John, Jim, and Randy spilled out onto the runway and immediately embraced one another. It was as if that particular moment created a bond for each of them with one another and with the man whose memory they had come to honor.

It has now been over 40 years since Leslie Douglas passed away in the jungles of Vietnam. That doesn’t mean the wounds have healed for Kim or her mother. There really isn’t any way to completely recover from a loss so devastating. But what Kim has decided to do is to build a life that would make her father proud. She has no doubts that he is. One thing that is certain is that she has made her other four “dads” extremely proud. None of the four could ever replace actually knowing the man Leslie Douglas, but their presence eases the pain and makes his presence more real.

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A young Kim Douglas Sistrunk places flowers on her father's grave. Kim's father Leslie Douglas died as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

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