Local hero recalls military career, captivity in North Vietnam (Dwight Sullivan)

fter an afternoon of tests and treatment at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Dwight Sullivan comes home to Sun City West, where amongst the sun-dappled lilac vines of his back patio he sips a tall glass of water and gently grips the hand of Ada, his wife of more than 40 years.

For the retired Air Force colonel, who endured 5.5 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, there is little he takes for granted. Coming home is always special.

When the distant screech of an F-35 Lightning II interrupts the conversation, the decorated fighter pilot scans the sky. Does he wish he was piloting that jet high above the West Valley today?

“Oh, Yes,” the soft-spoken veteran says with a spreading grin, recalling his military career and the long, sometimes tragic path that eventually led the Sullivans to their Sun City West home.

Dwight Sullivan poses with his F-105 Thunderchief at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base north of Bankok, Thailand in June 1967.

Growing up on the farm in the 1930s and 1940s, he said he learned one thing for certain by the time he graduated from Corydon High School near his hometown of Chariton, Iowa.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer,” Mr. Sullivan said.

He enrolled at Simpson College, a small liberal arts school in Indianola, Iowa, where he was working on a business degree when war broke out for the second time during his 20-year life, this time in Korea. He enlisted in the Air Force and entered the Aviation Cadet Program, where he received his commission and navigator wings as a crew member of a B-25 Mitchell bomber in 1954. But by then, the war was over.

He graduated from pilot training school in 1958 before completing numerous tours of duty across America, piloting the F-86 Sabre and F-101 Voodoo fighters across the skies above Illinois, Michigan, Montana, California and Maine.

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