Don Heiliger was born on January 16, 1937, in Madison, Wisconsin. He enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard on July 15, 1955, and was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC Program at the University of Wisconsin on June 16, 1958. Heiliger completed Undergraduate Navigator Training in July 1959, and served as a Navigator Instructor at Harlingen AFB, Texas and Mather AFB, California, before going through Undergraduate Pilot Training, where he graduated first in his class in March 1965. After combat crew training in the F-105 Thunderchief, Heiliger served witht he 36th and then the 80th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Yokota AB, Japan. He was flying combat missions on a temporary duty assignment when he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on May 15, 1967. Captain Heiliger was captured the next day and spent the next 2,106 days as a Prisoner of War before being released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. After hospitalization, Heiliger earned a Masters Degree from George Washington University and later served as Air Force Attache to Uruguay, then Chile, and finally as Defense and Air Attache to Israel before retiring from the Air Force on August 31, 1985. Col Heiliger is a Senior Pilot with over 3,000 flying hours as a Pilot and Navigator. He and his wife Cheryl had three sons together-Don, Jr., and twins Dan and Dave. Don Heiliger died on March 23, 2016.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain Donald L. Heiliger distinguished himself for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 pilot over North Vietnam on 30 April 1967. On that date, Captain Heiliger conducted the first night radar, low level mission against one of North Vietnam's most valuable and heavily defended railroad yards. Even under the best of conditions this mission would have been extremely difficult and dangerous. However Captain Heiliger flew in the dead of night and in a single unescorted aircraft. With complete disregard for his own safety, he continued his attack in spite of the threat of numerous missiles and through intense hostile antiaircraft fire. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Heiliger has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.