Vietnam Veteran Takes to Skies in WWII Era Plane

by Matthew Memrick

An Arizona Vietnam Veteran got a rare treat, flying a WWII Era Plane this past weekend.

AZFamily reported on retired Col. Richard “Dick” Toliver’s opportunity to fly the “Amazing Grace” aircraft, thanks to a veteran organization. 

Call it a special birthday present, too. The veteran made the flight on the eve of his birthday. See photos of the flight here on Facebook.

The Grounded No More, also based in Arizona, connects veterans and their families and friends with a free flight in a WWII trainer aircraft. Tolliver got to fly a Fairchild PT-26 trainer plane as part of that birthday gift.

The 84-year-old man told a TV news reporter that he was ” just about as excited as I was the first time I ever remembered there was something called Christmas” over the flight.

Vietnam Veteran Rides In Style Over Arizona

The former “Top Gun” fighter pilot retired from the Air Force after 26 years of duty. He flew over a fantastic 446 combat missions and did two tours in Southeast Asia.

Toliver, a protégé of the Tuskegee Airmen, said there’s no feeling like floating in the clouds.

“The greatest gift I could be given at this time in my life…to climb in an aircraft again, take off, even if all I did was fly around the traffic pattern, it’s heavenly to be up there,” the man said.

The man said summed it up best, saying, “The moment of exhilaration takes place, and it’s like the initial takeoff. “

Tolliver knew he wanted to fly and serve his country early in life. According to the Air Force, he was one of the first five African American F-4 Phantom II pilots to serve under the famed Tuskegee Airman Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James.

He’s also authored several books about his service time. He worked tirelessly to promote the legacy of Tuskegee Airman by starting the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airman Inc. in Phoenix, where he was the founding president in 2005.

Two years later, he petitioned Congress to award 300 surviving members of that group the Congressional Gold Medal.  

Social Media Loves Tolliver’s Opportunity

Anger, who also joined Tolliver on Saturday, said he loves to fly veterans and see their excitement of flying again. 

“Some of the people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen have just been overwhelming…the veterans that come out here are usually very excited about it,” Anger told AZ Family.  

After Tolliver’s fun flight on Saturday, many took the time to share their admiration of the man and his opportunity.

“Such an honor to meet this Hero today,” Danice Quihuis said. “Thank you for your Service Colonel Toliver. It was an absolute pleasure to have you come out for a flight in Amazing Grace! God Bless you, Sir!”

Another Tolliver fan thanked the organization for helping Tolliver take the memorable trip.

“Thank you all for honoring this hero today,” Karen Terese Elmer Swanson said. “My heart was there!!”