A Tribute to Poppa:
My Dad is Leonard Charles Blain, to me he was Poppa.
Poppa was a Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam where he flew Troop Insertions and Extractions. He was so humble when he spoke of his service. He said it was his honor to serve and he said the troops on the ground were the ones that made the real sacrifices. Poppa never talked much to me about his time in Vietnam until the last ten years or so. He spoke of some of the difficult areas he had to fly into to extract troops. He said that they would be dropping down into an area with very tall trees he said “we were chopping fire wood all the way in, and all the way out”. He said “a helicopter rotor can only handle so much” and he said “he would be praying in those moments that they would be able to get the guys out and back home safe”. It always stuck with me that he didn’t pray for himself to get out alive, it was to get the guys out alive. Poppa always seemed so humble about his service, but when I’ve talked to other Vietnam Veterans they all told me how extremely grateful they were for Huey Pilots, and my one friend of many years that served, told me he said “The Huey Pilots were like Angels that would drop out of the Sky and Pluck you out of the Jungle”. I have always been so proud of my Poppa’s Service!
By the time I came along in “75” Poppa was operating heavy equipment where he operated Scrapers, Drag Lines, Loaders, Dozers, and many other types of equipment. Poppa then got licensed to fly fixed wing aircraft were he then flew spray planes and other small aircraft. We even got to grow up on an airport for a while. He then started driving Semis. Me being a little boy growing up in Nebraska, it was so cool to have a Dad that got to fly or operate all the real life sized versions of the toys all young boys play with and dream about.
These are just some of the things Poppa did for a living. He was also a fun Dad! I always remember my brother Lennie and me fixing something or remodeling something with Poppa. Whether it was drowning prairie dogs, or fixing the family car. He taught us the “you can just figure it out mentality”. If you need to build on to your house you just gather up some family and get started. If you need to fix your car, you just get the tools out, and fix it. Our Dad taught us this ability to “just figure it out and do it”.
As everyone that has met my Dad or my sister Nelle, knows that they always enjoyed talking with others. My dad was a person that could talk to anyone, about anything. I always joked that if a cricket hooped in the room Poppa could pull up a stool and have a conversation with it. And, my Uncle George simple put it as “Leonard has always been an Excellent Talker”. This was a gift the Poppa had; this is why so many people are here today. He would reach out and get to know people that other people wouldn’t necessarily get to know and he would get to know their struggles that no one else knew. Many times in my life, Poppa would be able to calm me down and help me through a hard time when nothing else would work.
Growing up with Poppa as a Father was a lot of Fun to say the Least, whether it was telling stories, joking around, or just hanging out together. Looking back, I truly cherish time together with him.
Poppa would always be faithful to call to check in, and spend time together. I enjoyed so much over the years spending time with Poppa, and I feel so Blessed that God gave me him as A Father, A Mentor, A Friend, and A Hero.
I’m sad that Poppa is not here with us today, but when I try to comprehend the Celebration Poppa, Nelle, and many other Family members and Friends are having in Heaven now. I can’t help but smile. I just want to remember Heaven is the goal, and spending more time with Poppa here on earth is not the goal, Heaven Is!