When Army pilot Curt Lambert last saw his beloved Huey helicopter in 1971 during the Vietnam War, he thought he would never see it again.


Unbeknownst to him, his very helicopter would end up on display just 30 miles down the road from his workplace.


The UH-1H Utility Helicopter '659' Huey he flew in Vietnam is on display at the Fort Irwin National Training Center military museum. Through Army records, Lambert was able to confirm it was the exact bird he flew.


A photographer at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Lambert was amazed to learn the chopper he flew half a world away was now just a short drive.


"When I first saw heard it, it was a little bit of disbelief," Lambert said. "What are the odds of my helicopter being on display so close?"


On a trip to see the helicopter, Lambert settled into the cockpit just as he had so many times before.


"Each helicopter has their own idiosyncrasies," Lambert said. "This helicopter was just a perfect fit for me. It felt like it. I just sat in, grabbed the controls and I was off to the races."


Lambert joined the Army fresh out of high school. Though he'd planned to go to college, he changed his mind when he saw a recruiting poster reading, "Be a helicopter pilot right out of high school," he said. He still doesn't know why.


During that time he became a chief warrant officer 2 aircraft pilot with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment where he flew in hundreds of missions, from combat assault insertions to medical evacuations under enemy fire.


Lambert said a pilot becomes attached to their helicopter. In his helicopter, he had his most exhilarating moments of his life and the most terrifying. In that helicopter he had brushes with death, but it always brought him out alive.


"It was very strong and took care of us," Lambert said. "It never let us down."


That helicopter was also where he grew up.


"I was just a goofy little kid when I first signed up," Lambert said. "But it didn't take long to see the serious side of life."