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Saturday, July 26, 2014

For the 'son of a snake driver,' a flight into history

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shannon Luscinski waits for takeoff in a Cobra helicopter like the one his father, Capt. James Luscinski, flew in Vietnam.
(Submitted photo)
Shannon Luscinski was four years old when his father, Capt. James T. Luscinski, was killed in Vietnam.

Capt. Luscinski was the most-decorated combat soldier in the history of Rutherford County, according to his brother, Joel Luscinski of Wartrace.

When Shannon became an adult, he began to research his father's military career, and he wanted a point of connection.

(Submitted photo)
Specifically, he wanted to ride in a Cobra helicopter, the kind his father flew.

With his uncle Joel's help, he was able to get that ride.

Jim Luscinski enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 1960. He earned the rank of sergeant, then attended Tennessee Military Academy and was promoted to second lieutenant. He got an adjutant position working for General Hugh Mott, commander of the Tennessee National Guard. His younger brother Gene, a high school student, got a job at the airport in Murfreesboro and started flight training. He eventually got brothers Jim and Larry interested. After all three had gone through flight training, Jim decided to transfer from the guard to the regular army and fly helicopters during the height of the Vietnam War. Larry went on to become a pilot for TWA, and Gene flew F-4 Phantom fighter jets for the Navy.

Jim completed basic helicopter school in Alabama and Texas, then went to Savannah, Ga., to learn to fly the new, highly-touted Huey Cobra gunship. Cobra pilots were nicknamed "snake drivers," according to Joel Luscinski. He was ordered to Vietnam in June 1969. He was based at Camp Evans near the Ashaw Valley, serving from July until October, when he was killed in action on a rescue mission.

During his brief service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and an Air Combat Medal. Upon his death, he was awarded a second Silver Star (Oak Leaf Cluster) and a Purple Heart.

When Shannon, who was then still a young man, expressed an interest in flying in a Cobra helicopter, Joel "begged and pleaded" with the guard unit in Smyrna to take Shannon up.

"I got the runaround for two years," he said, "and even contacted the governor's office, to no avail."

Over 25 years passed, and Shannon was now a middle-aged man living in Murfreesboro. Joel got a call on April Fool's Day of this year from his brother Gene. This was no joke, however. Gene told Joel that two Vietnam-era helicopters were going to be at Dallas Bay Skypark, a general aviation airport near Chattanooga. They would be giving rides to the public.

One of the two helicopters was a Cobra.

Then, the bad news: the rides would cost $500.

Shannon's four uncles chipped in to get his ride.

The pilot, a retired Army officer, had flown the Cobra in the Iraq War. He took Shannon on actual combat flight maneuvers including strafing dives from 2,500 feet to near ground level.

"When Shannon landed, you could tell he was awe-struck," said Joel.

"They haven't invented the roller coaster that comes close," Shannon told his uncle. More than that, it was a point of contact with the hero and father whom Shannon never really got the chance to know.

"All in all," said Joel, "it was one of the greatest days in the Luscinski brothers' lives, not to mention a life-long dream fulfilled for the son of a 'snake driver,' Shannon Luscinski."

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Very nice story.

I was in TMA with Jim and also went on active duty from the TNG and flew Cobra Helicopters in RVN albeit with a different unit (Air Cav Troop, 11th ACR).

I remember the day Jim was KIA. I was in Phu Loi in 3corps area.

I believe there was at least 3 others from the OCS class that went on active duty.

-- Posted by jth767 on Mon, Apr 22, 2013, at 3:40 PM

On behalf of the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Museum, it was our honor to take Shannon flying in the "Snake." We do this all the time. As a 501-c-3 Not for Profit Veterans Foundation, helicopter rides are our primary source of revenue to keep these aircraft flying. If you are interested in flying in one of our aircraft, such as the UH-1H Huey or the AH-1F Cobra, please visit our website: www.armyav.org or call our hangar and ask for Rick: 770-897-0444

-- Posted by mosdawg on Mon, Apr 22, 2013, at 5:26 PM

I Volunteer at the Museum of Flight Hixson.

When Shannon came to Fly in the Cobra,

I didn't know the whole Story. The Story

Is Amazing!! People ask me why I

Volunteer when I'm not crazy about

Flying.......this is Exactly why!

For the Love of our People and Country.

-- Posted by Heel on Thu, Apr 25, 2013, at 6:01 AM

Jimmy was one of my TAC officers at TMA just before he went to flight school. He was one of the finest men I ever met.

TN Taxpayer

-- Posted by TN Taxpayer on Mon, May 6, 2013, at 3:18 PM

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