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A Thursday ceremony honored the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the last of the Doolittle Raiders. Twitter photo via Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

​USAF leaders and the family of retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole said goodbye to the last of the Doolittle Raiders during a Thursday ceremony at JBSA-Randolph, Texas.

Cole, who co-piloted the lead aircraft on the famed April 18, 1942, raid on Tokyo with Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, died April 9 in San Antonio at the age of 103. The Thursday ceremony took place on the 77th anniversary of the raid.

“The Doolittle Raid exemplifies American defiance and ingenuity,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at the ceremony. “They bet big, and it worked, because nobody thought such an attack was even possible. Nobody, except those who threw out the rulebook, customized the airframe, its hardware, its engine, and pioneered the training and operational tactics to do the unthinkable on an impossible timeline.”

Watch video of the ceremony above. Video courtesy of DVIDS

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who visited Cole in the hospital last week, said he is “a man we all grew to love, admire, and whose incredible life of service we celebrate today. We’re proud to carry the torch that he and his generation passed to us.”

Cole’s service extended long beyond the raid. He volunteered to fly cargo planes over the Himalayas between India and China, and later became part of the founding group of airmen who formed the first Air Commandos.

“Col. Cole never thought of himself as a hero,” Goldfein said. “He always emphasized ‘We’re just doing our job, part of the big picture, and happy that what we did was helpful.’ ”

04182019 Cole Goldfein Wilson.jpg
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein watch a T-38C Talon “Missing Man” formation flyover with guests during a memorial service celebrating the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Photo by Sean Worrell/Air Force

Before the ceremony, hundreds of airmen lined the streets of the base and saluted as the Cole family made their way to the ceremony. It culminated with a flyover of B-25 Mitchell bombers, the same type used in the raid, along with an RC-135, B-52, and a T-38 missing man formation.

Rich Cole, the son of the late Richard Cole, said the ceremony was a bittersweet time, a chance to celebrate a life well lived and “a fight well fought.”

“His story is an Air Force story. This is not a family story, this story belongs to the Air Force,” Cole said.

04182019 Cole Grandson.jpgAaron Cole, a grandson of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, sings the national anthem during a memorial service for his grandfather at JBSA-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Photo by Johnny Saldivar/Air Force