Veteran Salute: More than 30 years of flying

Veteran Salute

OXFORD, Kan. (KSNW) – An Oxford native flew for the U.S. Army, on two tours to Vietnam, and then again in Desert Storm.

You know you are going into hostile territory when you have a piece of silk hidden in your jacket.

In several languages, it states, ‘I’m an American, and I do not speak your language. I will not harm you.’

It also offers a reward for those who offer safe passage to the nearest friendly forces.

“Bits and pieces of it, is my life,” retired Chief Warrant Officer Bob Hendricks said.

Hendricks’ pieces of his past include a sword and spurs from the time he was attached to a Cavalry Unit, and the hat still fits.

“That’s when I realized I liked the military,” Hendricks said.

Straight out of basic, he also discovered he loved to fly.

“You can see so much when you are flying your own aircraft,” Hendricks said.

This was captured as he was preparing to go to war.

“Vietnam was the one where I got shot up the most,” Hendricks said.

He said one time he pulled up his hand, and there was no glove.

“When I reached over there and made the turn, a bullet came up through that console, wrapped that metal over, so that it hooked my glove, and I came back with an empty hand,” Hendricks said.

He said sometimes they didn’t even realize they had taken enemy fire, until they were back on the ground.

“It had to of come right in between my feet, right in cross in front of me and out the top glass like that, so that bullet, passed within, oh, that far of me, and inches of my feet,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks distinctly remembers the day they had fired every bullet on the machine, when a unit they were supporting on the ground got into a major firefight.

“The situation dictated, I had wounded soldiers, I had an aircraft,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery, and a call that saved those soldiers lives.

“We will take them out, so we landed, picked them up, and Med Evaced them,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks went on to fly far more troops and equipment all over Vietnam, when he volunteered for a second tour.

“That’s war, you respond and you do things,” Hendricks said.

He later took that love for adrenaline, and his talents to the U.S. Forest Service.

“I didn’t realize, what it was until I got into the Forest Service and was fighting fires, now I am happy again, well it is that adrenaline,” Hendricks said.

He also met his true happy while firefighting, his wife Annie.

She’s a Navy veteran, who was at the time the Secretary of the Regional Forester’s Office.

“She would know some of the missions I was going to go on, for the Forest Service, before I knew,” Hendricks said.

They both soon figured out his deployment days were not done.

“Desert Storm Occupational Medal,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks flew more missions in Desert Storm.

“Sole purpose of our unit was to Med Evac for Americans, not the locals,” Hendricks said.

He said that was until they got a call about some survivors, following one of Saddam Hussiens many Imperial Guard attacks.

“We had a mother, who was carrying a baby, and she had been shot, she was wounded, she had a rope tied around her, and she was pulling her daughter,” Hendricks said. “I think she was about an 11-year-old girl, she had been shot, she was quite, she was quite serious.”

Hendricks said he did what he was known to do.

“I loaded them up, and we medevaced them to the hospital,” Hendricks said.

When it was time for Hendricks to finally head home from war, for good, an inspiring artist on his crew made sure his aircraft was ready.

His wife, and two young sons were so thankful to have their hero home.

“They were in that environment, and I think they might have enjoyed it very much, that might have influenced them a little bit,” Hendricks said.

Years later his son, who is Military Police, got an interesting assignment.

“He was one of Hussein’s handlers, during the time he was tried, and he has tons of stories about that,” Hendricks said.

His other son, is an artillery officer.

His two sons have deployed five times, their service makes their Retired Chief Warrant Officer Father very proud.

Hendricks said he doesn’t regret one day he took flight, in the more than three decades he flew for the Army.

He said when he was young and gung ho he flew gunships, then decades later at the end of his career he chose a Med Evac unit.

He said that way he was close to doctors, nurses and medication, just in case it was ever needed.

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