It had been 3 years since Jim Riggle had last rolled the Vet Cub out of the safety of his shop. After all, its value had become immeasurable due to the time and effort he had put in to collect the signatures of U.S. veteran pilots from around the country. Jim Riggle, Vet Cub owner and the founder of the concept itself, had collected nearly fifty signatures. He then became too afraid to take the airplane out to fly it again. He considered it irreplaceable.
Having heard some of the stories from Jim about the signatures and the men they belonged to, I couldn’t blame him. Three of the five Tuskegee Airmen who had signed the aircraft wing have since passed away. World War veterans are a rapidly diminishing community in America and without the efforts of people like Jim Riggle, we would lose the opportunity to honor the contributions and sacrifices they had made that we benefit from in our present day.
This last spring, Jim finally decided enough was enough. We wouldn’t have the freedoms we do today if the soldiers of our past played it safe, and Jim knew that by playing it safe he was not properly honoring their memory. “This just won’t work,” Jim said to himself as he saw her sitting pristine and protected in the privacy of his little shop.
Since then, Jim has shown the aircraft at multiple warbird events as a display piece, slowly gathering the courage necessary to fly her again. On September 11, 2010, I had the honor of seeing her fly at an event for the first time in years. Whether the impact of her resurrection date was intentional or not, the power in Jim’s positive outlook was not lost on me. Jim had chosen to spend this day celebrating our past through honoring our veterans instead of mourning this significant day in our history.