Rufus Dye is 91-years-old.
He lives a quiet life now at Parsons House Austin, an assisted living community. But his life in the military was far from low-key.
The Air Force Colonel flew combat missions in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He says he enjoyed his time in the service.
“Well of course, getting to fly was one of the major things and I guess…you know just the idea that it was kind of a thrill in a way knowing that you’re going to shoot at somebody or somebody is going to shoot at you and the lucky one wins,” Dye said.
One day during WWII, Dye’s squadron was bombing a rail yard in Cologne when he was shot down by enemy forces. He had to bail — thinking he would end up in a river down below.
“Get out of this airplane and then I’m gonna land in that damn river and drown! But I didn’t, I floated across the river and landed flat on my back in a potato patch,” Dye said.
Colonel Dye says he laid there for a minute to catch his breath and then got up to start walking.
“I started to leave the parachute laying and I decided ‘No that would make a lot of pretty scarves’ so I grabbed my parachute and headed for the road,” Dye said.
He saw a French boy on his bicycle. After convincing the scared young man he wasn’t German, he hitched a ride.
“So he puts me on his handlebar and parachute in the basket. We rode into this little town and there was a British outpost there. And he took me by the British outpost and dropped me off there and I gave him every damn penny that was in my escape kit! I gave that kid a fortune in money,” he said.
The next morning, Dye says he couldn’t walk he’d been hurt so bad in the fall. He spent 2 weeks in an army hospital. When he was better, he was dropped off in downtown Paris hoping fellow soldiers would pick him up.
“I hadn’t been there more than an hour until one of the guys from my unit came walking by…we looked at each other like ‘Hey!’ Two guys seeing ghosts,” he said.
Colonel Dye has a Purple Heart and a handful of other medals for his service to this country.
Eventually he tried his hand at Optometry but opted to keep flying instead.
Dye’s girlfriend Elizabeth Larson lived through those wars as well — she reflects on why people like Dye are so important to her.
“Well like a lot of us others that were back in that era, we feel that the reason we can be doing what we’re doing, we’re not under the Russians, or anybody now because of these men that sacrificed a lot,” she said.