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ARLINGTON, Va. — Utah Honor Flight veterans cheered the precise and daring maneuvers displayed by the US Air Force drill team at the Air Force Memorial.
Back in September 1941, when Dick Fleischer enlisted, it was the Army Air Corps, and he learned a few precise and daring maneuvers of his own as a fighter pilot.
He had never even been in a plane before.
"But, I always thought I'd like to fly," Fleischer said. He got his wish in the Pacific in the cockpit of a P-47.
Fleischer flew over 200 combat missions. One day, as he and other fighters took off to battle, Japanese planes dive-bombing American PT boats. He spotted one and pursued.
"I got a nice shot, and I hit him. It was my first one, and it caught fire with his engine and his wings, and he went in," he said.
The young pilots celebrated with victory rolls on the way back to base.
Over the next two years, he shot down six airborne enemy aircraft, earning flying ace status. When he came home, his wife told him, no more flying.
"She said ‘You've used up all of your guardian angels,' " remembered Fleischer. So, he went into the insurance business.
But, through this Utah Honor Flight, for the first time in decades, he felt a distant, but familiar exhilaration.
Fleischer loves what he did for his country, but struggles to put his feelings in perspective.
"I got that feeling sometimes when I flew," he said. "It was the greatest feeling I had until I came on this reunion that we have here. I get the same feeling."