By Kevin Wood/NEMS Daily Journal
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.