TOPEKA (KSNT) – Air Force veteran Lt. Colonel John Plumb’s love for flying started at a young age.

“My heart would go pitter-patter when I would see an airplane,” Plumb said.

His head was always in the clouds and he remembers getting in trouble at school because of it.

“She said, John Plumb, if you like airplanes so much, get up and go outside and watch them,” Plumb recalled.

Not only did he take her advice – he learned to turn his passion into a career. In exchange for some work around an airport hangar in his hometown, John got his private pilot’s license before joining the military.

“The man who ran the airport said ‘hey kid I can’t pay you cash but if you do some work for me, I’ll teach you how to fly’,” Plumb said.

After flying as a private pilot, Plumb enlisted in the Air Force in 1952. He was assigned to Forbes Air Force Base as a copilot on KC-97 refueling tankers and later flew KC-135s.

“We kept the gas pouring is what we did,” Plumb said.

The Cold War soldier flew and refueled nuclear-armed bombers and was ready at a moment’s notice. He retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving 14 years of active duty, 10 years with the national guard and later flew for American Airlines.

“That’s really something,” Plumb reflected. “I’m proud of that and I’m very fortunate I had that opportunity.”

When Plumb’s flying days were over, he was just shy of flying 27,000 hours. That’s more than three years of his life spent in the air. Today he continues his passion for flying by volunteering at the Combat Air Museum in Topeka where he runs the flight simulator and loves every minute teaching the community about his love for flying.

We’re highlighting veterans in our community every week just like John. If you’d like to nominate someone for our Veteran Salute Segment, please email with the subject line VETERAN SALUTE. Include the veteran’s name, military branch, rank, years of service, a short biography and a number to contact them.