Chance Encounter Leads to Connection with Decorated World War II Veteran

It isn’t every day that a chance encounter in a parking lot leads to a connection with a War Hero, but that is exactly what happened to Austin Talley, OSD Chief Development Officer, on a recent afternoon. We caught up with Austin to learn about this meeting and the amazing Veteran he got to meet.

Austin explained, “While driving home, I saw a man waving me down in a shopping center parking lot. I pulled over to ask if he needed some assistance. He asked if I would mind helping out an old Vet. He needed to deliver a packet to a nearby office and pointed out the building. Of course, I jumped out of my truck to assist my fellow Veteran. In talking to him a bit, I discovered he was a WW2 Veteran who flew over Germany, Italy, and Africa. He sadly lost his beloved wife of 72 years, Miriam, just recently. We exchanged a few life stories and almost a few tears. Then he reached in his pocket and gave me his challenge coin as a simple thank you for stopping. I gave him mine. 

I was curious about this amazing man I had the honor of meeting, so as soon as I got home I did a bit of research. Col. USAF (Ret.) John “Jack” W. Oliver was not only a highly decorated aviator but also a scientist and Missile Launch Officer who played a huge role in the early successes of the US Space and Nuclear Deterrent programs. Jack spent 30 years in the Army Air Corps/USAF. He was a WWII Bombardier-Navigator, flying 53 missions. His 376th Bomb Group flew B24s in low-level raids over the Ploesti oil fields plus numerous missions over Germany, Austria, and Northern Italy. Jack received two Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and several Group Commendation Medals. Later, he was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Returning home, Jack attended pilot training and was selected as one of only ten to fly the new P-80. He continued to fly the T-33 throughout his career. In addition to the B-24 and B-29, he also flew the famous P-51. As Base Adjutant at Albrook Field in the Canal Zone, Jack flew the DC-3 throughout Central and South America. He also escorted Chuck Yeager on the Good Will Tour in those same countries. Later, Jack was assigned to Vandenberg AFB in the Discoverer Program, becoming a Satellite Master Controller, Test Director, Ops Officer, Commander of the Hawaiian Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station, and eventually Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations for Space and Missiles and Satellite Operations. A true public servant, after his 32-year military career, he served as County Commissioner for 12 years before retiring. I am truly honored I got the chance to meet him.”

There are millions of Veterans in our country just like Col. USAF (Ret.) Oliver. They have served their country honorably and made huge sacrifices defending our freedom. They do so quietly, never expecting praise or recognition. Luckily, so long as there are people like Austin and the OSD Community, who take the time to listen and share their stories, their legacy and sacrifice will not be forgotten.

About OSD
OSD is a global, chapter based, Veteran Support Ecosystem (EIN 27-3842517) providing relevant, relatable and sustainable impact to the military community through social, professional and service-oriented programs. Since 2010, OSD has impacted over 700,000 members of the military community through these award-winning programs. Read more at:

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