BOSSIER CITY, La -- Tom Rucker wanted to go to the Vietnam War when he joined the Marines out of Parkway High School in 1972. The war wound down, and he wasn’t sent over.
But he learned aircraft mechanics, which would help send him to a combat zone almost 40 years later, which culminated in a memorable landing back home.
It was eleven years ago, August 11, 2010 at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. As each guardsman walked through a column of veterans and others cheering their return, they came to the former commander-in-chief at the end of the line. Former President George W. Bush and wife Laura were also there to thank the troops.
"That was exciting," Tom says. "He greeted everybody that came through from that flight. It was a shock. I was happy. Makes you feel good."
Tom was a maintainer for Blackhawk helicopters. He and his unit spent almost a year on a base near Kandahar, Afghanistan. It was a target for the enemy.
“We had periodic rocket attacks, night or day, it didn't matter.” Tom recalled. "The people would try to come through the gate or through the fence or shoot rockets. The siren sound and then everybody would go to the shelter.
"And that was actually it was May 27 2010 We wouldn't have happened. That was my birthday," Tom added.
On his 56th birthday to be exact, the former Bossier City police officer and former Bossier sheriff’s deputy was under fire in a foreign war.
"Being in law enforcement as long as I was. I'd never really got shot at that I was aware of. I don't think I got shot at over there but, other than with rockets. It was an adventure," Tom says.
After retiring from the National Guard, Tom swooped back into Bossier to start his own business in 2013. And he knew just what to call it -- Blackhawk Residential Septic Service.
"I came up with the name of my company, catchy name, people would draw to that. And I started with a pickup truck, and some tools and some advertising and it's just gone skyrocket. It's amazing.
"Right now I'm having to work seven days a week, to stay anywhere near caught up in I'm so far behind me. I've got a lot of work to do," Tom says.
By the way, he’s hiring. He says if you're experienced working on septic systems, you could make $25 an hour.
A veteran business owner is proud of his war background.
"I trained for it all the time in the military, that's what you do is train, and it's nice to be able to use your training," Tom says.
Tom had prepared to deploy to Operation Desert Storm more than 20 years earlier. But that war with Iraq ended before he could go.