Irrigon veteran reunited with the man who saved his life in Vietnam

On Dec. 1, 1969 Artie Kellar Jr. and Gerald Duncan were on a helicopter in Vietnam when Kellar was hit by a round that tore a silver dollar-sized hole in his right leg just above the ankle. Duncan tied a tourniquet over the wound that kept Kellar from bleeding to death on the way back to base.

The two men were reunited for the first time this week as Duncan stopped by Kellar’s home in Irrigon during a cross-country trip.

“This guy here saved my life,” Kellar said.

Back in 1969, Kellar was 18 and Duncan was 21. Both were “Copperheads” — gunners for the Army’s 162nd Assault Helicopter Company. Kellar had enlisted at 17 and Duncan had been drafted.

Duncan said door gunner was the most dangerous job in the Army — one buddy told him during his infantry days he got shot at maybe twice, but as soon as he went up in a helicopter he got shot at 15 times on his first day. Gunners were more likely to get hit than the pilots, he said, because enemies shooting at the craft had a habit of aiming directly at the helicopter instead of slightly ahead of it.

On Dec. 1 they were protecting troop carriers when they took fire. Suddenly, Kellar was “grabbing his leg and screaming.”

It’s interesting what people think of in a moment like that, Duncan said.

“What was going through my mind at that time was that he was bleeding all over my helicopter, and he was not going