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War Stories

There I Was Looking at Rudy Parris

by Cary J. Bacon

This is a story about my memories of Centaur Rudy Parris the RIF, and how our lives interchanged until his death.


I was a Huey pilot upon assignment to the Centaurs until given the chance to train at Vung Tau for Cobra transition. When I returned to the Troop, Captain Runyon assigned me to Rudy Parris as my Section Leader.

Many missions were flown in Rudy’s front seat and I don’t think he really cared that much for me. But mostly that was the impression he gave to everyone. Once I shot up the first VC from the front seat he put me in for the Hunter Killer insignia for my flight suit and I began to enjoy my flights even more. I flew in the front seat with a lot of exceptional Cobra pilots.

One memory comes to me when I was assigned as Rudy’s wingman on a Counter Rocket night gun standby mission at Dau Tieng. As we pulled pitch in echelon right formation and I pulled in behind Rudy he went into a very slight right bank. After I made two or three radio calls to him, he said “Bacon take the lead” and his night flying was never talked of again.

As I look at Rudy Parris’s photo on the Centaurs in Vietnam site I see that ‘Widow’s Peek’ on his forehead and recall the hours he spent twirling that piece of hair between his thumb and forefinger. Mostly as he thought about the poker hand he had and what he was going to bet, “Pair of Fours – Para goric”.

Honestly I never thought Rudy and I would ever become friends, he was a Captain and I was a Warrant Officer. Well as luck would have it we got assigned to Fort Hood, in the Air Troop of the Armored Cavalry Squadron and now I was a Commissioned Officer. Our wives became friends and he and I had that special relationship you have from flying in Combat together.

Our platoon leader had flown as a Cobra IP in Hunter Hall and had lots of combat as well. So Rudy and I got to fly all kinds of flights developing methods for hovering fire of 2.75 Folding Fin Aerial Rockets and a new laser designated prototype missile after a little trip to Red River Army Depot for a couple of designator installations.

Well the Reduction in Force (RIF) hit Captains pretty hard and Rudy was on the list. We had our sad good byes and he and his wife moved back to Manhattan, KS. We saw each other over Thanksgiving the following year but lost track soon after that.

Then one day there was a knock on my door at my home outside Fort Eustis. There stood Rudy Parris, in uniform a brand new Warrant Officer assigned to the 101st as an Armament Officer getting some training at Ft Eustis in his new MOS. His second wife Malinda and he coming for a visit. Well it was a most enjoyable time with a twist, now was a Captain and he a Warrant Officer, how our lives had interchanged.

Jump to the end - Rudy Parris was returning from a long six month deployment in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt when on that fateful December day Arrow Air flight 1285 iced up and crashed in Gander, Newfoundland. He never made it home alive and I miss him every day.

God bless you CW3 Rudy Parris and all who have given everything!