Ernest W. Rickenbacker II – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

Ernest W. Rickenbacker
September 14, 1944 – September 13, 2008

Ernest “Rick” Rickenbacker, 63, of Greenbrier, son of the late Ernest W. and Thesee (Kantsos) Rickenbacker, passed away Saturday, September 13, 2008.


He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and brother. He was a decorated Vietnam War hero and member of the Blue Max Air Combat Unit, who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts, during combat.

During his 23 years in the United States Army, he was an accomplished Air Traffic Controller, Paratrooper, Master Parachute Rigger, Combat Pilot, and Flight Instructor.

Due to his great skill and knowledge in the field of aviation, the Army Aviation Association of America presented him with the award of Aviator of the Year in 1979.

In addition to his distinguished military career, he was also a retired manager of the Apache Program, Boeing Aerospace Corporation.

In his private life, he was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite, flew competitive aerobatics, champion archer, gifted artist, musician, professional angler, avid motorcyclist, and participant in the Patriot Guard. He was a true patriot who supported his brothers and sisters in arms until his last breath. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his loving wife of 19 years, Jaqueline; son, Scott Rickenbacker; daughter, Suzette and Robert Cherry; step-daughter, Cathie Salerno; step-son, Brian Salerno; two grandsons, Matthew Rickenbacker and Lucas Rickenbacker; granddaughter, Kyler Burch; step-granddaughters, Danielle Salerno, Amanda Salerno, and Emily Salerno; two sisters, Frederique and Tom Heavrin, and Dominique and Michael Featheringham; and an uncle, Harry Rickenbacker.

After a very full and accomplished life, Ernest W. Rickenbacker “pulled pitch” for the last time Saturday, September 13, 2008.

Known to his friends as Rick but nicknamed “Fast Eddie” by Art Jetter for his speed in becoming an A/C, he had suffered for several years with cancer of the prostate and had undergone many treatments and surgeries.

Fast Eddie served as a Warrant Officer in C 2/20, F79 and B 4/77.

He was a true hero, earning the DFC, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. In 23 years in the Army he excelled as an ATC, Paratrooper, Master Parachute Rigger, Combat Pilot and Flight Instructor.

In 1979 the Army Aviation Association of America chose him as Aviator of the Year.

He retired as a manager of the Apache program.

He was a 320 Mason (Scottish Rite), a champion archer and avid motorcyclist, a gifted musician and artist, a professional angler, and a participant in the Patriot Guard.

On 12 October 1971, while serving at FSB Pace in Vietnam, Rick and Jim MacLachlan were involved in a crash and fire. Fast Eddie was clear of the wreckage but returned to pull his friend from the aircraft and saved Jim’s life at the risk of his own. He then gave Jim his pistol, and weaponless and surrounded by NVA, ran to get help for his buddy. As Jim sums it up, “A great man who gave me the gift of life that's lasted more than 35 years now. I owe it all to Rick for coming back to the aircraft and pulling me out of the fire. Nothing more need be said.”

A loving husband, father and grandfather, he is survived by his loving wife Jaqueline, son, Scott, daughter, Suzette, a step-son, Brian Salerno and a step-daughter, Cathie Salerno, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, sisters and an uncle. A memorial service was held September 16 in Conway, Arkansas, and interment is approved for Arlington National Cemetery in December. Jackie asks that in lieu of flowers a plant be sent
which can be planted and will provide long-term memories.

“Old soldiers never die—they just fade away.”

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