Walter Fricke

Year Inducted: 2023

Year Of Birth: 1948

Walter Fricke was born in Traverse City, Michigan. By the age of 12 he developed an interest in aviation. This led to him to work odd jobs at the local airport washing and waxing aircraft in return for flight time. He soloed on his 16th birthday from the local airport and received his Private License at age 17. He was also an avid RC model airplane operator.  

After graduating from High School in 1966, Fricke joined the US Army.  He received orders to Fort Wolters, TX for the Warrant Officer Candidate indoctrination course and Primary Aviator Flight School. He then received follow on orders to Fort Rucker, AL for advanced helicopter training. Upon completion of his training, he was deployed to Vietnam, joining the 68th Assault Helicopter Company at Bien Hoa. He flew his first combat mission at age 19. He began the first two month of his tour transporting troops into battle zones, and he was soon designated as an Aircraft Commander. His next assignment was to fly the UH-1D as a smoke ship, laying down covering smoke to conceal assault landings. Fricke requested to fly the UH-1C Gunship. He flew the aircraft for eight months before being severely injured when a rocket he fired exploded on launch, virtually tearing off one of his legs. He returned to base safely and was soon transferred back to the U.S. where he spent six months in the hospital at Fort Knox, KY. Followed by another six months of outpatient care at Fort Rucker. During his recovery there, he served as the Assistant Executive Officer of Airfield Operations. 

From Fricke’s deployment and 800 combat flight hours, he was awarded two Bronze Stars, 21 Air Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry. After he transitioned out of the military, Fricke also began flying again, earning civilian ratings while attending Michigan State University. He also worked in aircraft sales, crop-spraying and as a glider instructor. 

Walter Fricke then began a career in Finance, while continuing to fly. One of his accomplishments was the establishment of the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a group providing finance for housing. He retired from that business in 2006 and decided to begin a second career of supporting wounded veterans. Fricke created the Veteran Airlift Command (VAC), transporting injured vets throughout the country to health care facilities and to be with their families. He gathered a group of 2500 volunteers who would use their planes for this purpose. He visited veterans’ hospitals across the country raising awareness of the VAC. He then organized the VAC Tribute Wing, a cadre of pilots that fly over airshows in formations, giving tribute to veterans. Since the VAC was formed, the group has flown over 19,000 veterans and their family members on essential travel flights. 

Walter Fricke is a combat-wounded veteran who has spent his life serving his country and fellow veterans.

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