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Valley veteran who trained under original Tuskegee Airmen goes on free honor flight

The nonprofit Grounded No More, Inc. took retired Colonel Richard Toliver on a ride in the skies.

MESA, Ariz. — Heroic figures have been flying across the Valley skies, however, they're not superheros but instead veterans with honorable careers.

The nonprofit Grounded No More, that has a mission of serving those who serve, took yet another decorated veteran on a free flight out of Falcon Field in Mesa Saturday morning. 

Retired Col. Richard "Dick" Toliver is a "Top Gun" fighter pilot and a protégé of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

"He was trained by the Tuskegee Airmen and he was the first of five African American pilots to fly the F-4," President and CEO of Grounded No More, Tony Anger said. 

RELATED: Valley nonprofit takes Pearl Harbor survivor on free flight for his 100th birthday

"I was mentored and trained by the very originals back in 1957," said Toliver.

Toliver retired from the Air Force after 26 years of dedicated service, including two tours in Southeast Asia and 446 combat missions.

In 2005, he spearheaded the creation of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. in Phoenix and served as founding president. Then in 2007, Toliver helped lead a petition to Congress for the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen. 

Anger said he couldn't think of anyone more deserving of a free, fun flight. 

"He's a national treasure, a hero," Anger continued. 

RELATED: Honor Flight held for Gilbert pilot who was killed during Kenya terrorist attack

Toliver said the entire experience made him feel like a kid again, and his excitement was tangible. 

"This is the closest thing to my first Christmas I can recall in my life," Toliver said. "I have not had so much excitement, seriously, in many, many years."

With nothing but piloting on his mind since he was a kid, he said it was great to be back in the skies. 

"I wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid growing up in World War II and no one told me you can't be a pilot because there's no one that looks like you. That didn't matter."

To learn more about Grounded No More and how you can support the mission, click here

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