Slabinski, of Hanover Township, Pa., was part of the crew of the first rescue helicopter on the scene the following morning. He dropped to the snowy terrain to get Bulli, then Adler, both of whom were hoisted to safety.
He was happy to find two survivors. He recalled seeing Bulli first because he'd deployed an inflatable raft. He gave him morphine for his injured foot. Adler, though, was in worse condition with severe frostbite, broken ribs and a fractured skull. He was unconscious for five days and eventually his leg was amputated because of gangrene.
Bulli, 90, of Omaha, Neb., was unable to attend Saturday's event. He had specially engraved lighters sent to the five helicopter crew members at Otis Air Force Base, telling them in a note, "Thanks for the lift."
Slabinski still has his.
Saturday's remembrance included an event at the Moosehead Riders snowmobile club house in Greenville, followed by a rain-soaked event at the crash site, still strewn with debris. The families of several crew members participated, along with several rescuers who had used snowshoes and primitive snowmobiles to reach it 50 years ago.
Adler said the crash underscored that military service can be a deadly business, even in peacetime.
"Deaths don't always occur in combat. This is a noncombat situation, a combat simulation. That's why we were down so low. And seven men died. And people die all the time, and it's not just Vietnam, or Korea or World War II. Just give thanks that people are willing to give a portion of their lives over to help serve their country," he said.
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