Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Owen “AL” Heeter, Colonel USAF (Retired)January 03, 1936 – February 17, 2007
Col. Heeter was born Jan. 3, 1936, in Athens, the son of Darwin and Edythe Clevenger Heeter. During his youth, he was raised in the Akron area and he attended school at Akron for 10 years before graduating from Rochester High School in 1954. Al was a member of the RHS 1953 Indiana State Champion football team. He also was a standout on the 1952-1954 RHS baseball team.
Al was an employee of McMahan Construction Company, during his high school years. While at McMahan’s, he served under the wing of his mentor, the late Ed Boswell. Upon graduation from RHS, he attended DePauw University, Greencastle, where he was a member of the graduating class of 1958. While at DePauw, Al lettered in baseball, was an active member of the ROTC and Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity. It was through the ROTC at DePauw that he discovered his love for flying.
On July 13, 1957, in Jackson, Miss., he married Mary Elizabeth Turk. She preceded him in death on Dec. 1, 1996.
Upon his graduation from DePauw, Al entered the United States Air Force. He spent the next 30 years of his life serving our country. During his many years of service, Col. Heeter was stationed in the following locations: Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan; Richards Gebaur Air Force Base, Missouri; Moron Air Base, Spain; Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; Udorn Air Base, Thailand; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; Norton Air Force Base, California; Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas; Howard Air Force Base, Panama; Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida; and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
During his tours of duty, Col. Heeter received many citations including: the Silver Star (the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the armed forces); Legion of Merit (awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievement); Distinguished Flying Cross (awarded to those who distinguish themselves in combat by heroism while in aerial flight); Bronze Star (awarded for bravery); Defense Meritorious Service Medal (awarded for outstanding noncombat meritorious achievement or service); Meritorious Service Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters (third highest award bestowed by the military, additional awards are denoted by the Oak Leaf Clusters); Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters (awarded for distinguished merit while in aerial flight); and the Air Force Commendation Medal (awarded for acts of courage).
Of his many accomplishments, Col. Heeter was a distinguished command helicopter pilot with more than 5,000 career flying hours; many of them were from rescue missions flown over Vietnam. He also served as Deputy Commander of the Panama Canal from 1976 to 1978. Col. Heeter was the first pilot to fly an HH-53 helicopter across the Pacific Ocean, traveling more than 9,000 miles. He served as Air Rescue and Recovery Service Commander from 1983 to 1985.