Salutes & Awards

October 4, 2013

Day commemorates Tuskegee Airmen

Six of the original Tuskegee Airman, their spouses and the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter Tuskegee Airmen members pose for a picture during the Tuskegee Airman legislation celebration Sept. 26 at the Arizona State Capitol building. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the new law establishing an annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day in Arizona. The bill designates the fourth Thursday of March to recognize the men and women who formed the first black military in the Army Air Forces.

He was 17 years old when he became part of an experiment allowing blacks to fly in the Army Air Forces. What he didn’t know then was he would be a part of history.

Retired Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, 87, was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen who served during World War II.

“It was a definite struggle back then,” Ashby said. “Our country was integrated at the time, but our military was segregated. We had separate drinking fountains and dining facilities. Some would say blacks didn’t fly and couldn’t deal with anything complicated, so we were out to prove that we could. What really made us outstanding was everyone within our organization, whether they were cooks, bakers or mechanics, had the same mentality of exceeding.”

Ashby, along with six other Tuskegee Airmen, attended a ceremony Sept. 26 at the Arizona Capitol Museum honoring their service and celebrating a new law establishing the Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day in Arizona.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, designating the fourth Thursday of March as a day to celebrate the men and women who shaped the first black military wing in the Army Air Forces.

“Today is the day to celebrate how far we have come recognizing the people who worked so hard to get us here,” Brewer said. “We celebrate the many battlefield accomplishments of this groundbreaking aviation unit. We celebrate their bigger message about the human spirit, about how, regardless of circumstance, brave and persistent men and women can and will overcome barriers and burdens to show the world what they’re made of.”

What sparked the movement for the Tuskegee flying program was Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt.

“It was when she visited Kennedy Field in Tuskegee and was taken up in an aircraft piloted by Chief Alfred Anderson, America’s first black flight instructor, that she later said to her husband, ‘Franklin, if a colored man is good enough to fly the wife of a president, isn’t he good enough to fly for his country?’” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing ground safety manager and Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter historian.

As a result, in March 1941, the Tuskegee flying program began.

From 1942 through 1946, approximately 996 pilots graduated and received their commission and pilot wings. In all, more than 15,000 men and women participated in the “Tuskegee Experience.” More than 400 of the pilots served overseas in either the 99th Pursuit Squadron or the 332nd Fighter Group, according to the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona website.

Today, original surviving Tuskegee Airmen continue their legacy by encouraging youth to exceed in all they do. An organization was created called the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter.

The organization was created in August 1972 when the Tuskegee Airmen came together in Detroit and voted to establish a nationwide organization with membership open to all supporters.

“The motto to the Arizona Chapter is ‘Reaching our youth, ensuring our future,’” said David Toliver, Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc. president. “Yes, we are here to perpetuate the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen but every member of the chapter knows that our primary focus is on our Arizona youth, about encouraging them toward excellence in not only aviation and aerospace careers but also science, technology and engineering.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Thunderbolt of the Week

Staff Sgt. Clemente Fernandez III 56th Medical Support Squadron Outpatient records NCO in-charge Hometown: San Antonio Years in service: Six Family: Mom, Rosemary; dad, Clemente; sisters, Linda and Roxanne; and son, Clemente IV Previous assignments: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and Yokota AB, Japan Inspirations: My dad. He made sure I understood the importance of working...
 
 
Courtesy photo

Heroes walk amongst us every day

Courtesy photo “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.” ~Abraham Lincoln One Airman did just that when he found himself downrange in the thick of war. It was April 2008 and Maj. Scot...
 
 

THUNDERBOLT OF THE WEEK

Staff Sgt. Perry Vitali Jr. 56th Security Forces Squadron Element leader Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz. Years in service: Eight Education: Pursuing a Community College of the Air Force degree in criminal justice and a master physical trainer certification at the International Sports Sciences Association Previous assignments: F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Osan Air Base, South...
 

 
Grace Lee

Day taken to commemorate Tuskegee Airmen

Grace Lee David Toliver, Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. president, speaks March 27 at the inaugural Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day ceremony at the Luke Air Force Base Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Air Park....
 
 

Thunderbolt of the Week

Senior Airman Zachary James 607th Air Control Squadron Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman Hometown: Kingsland, Texas Years in service: 3.5 years Education: Pursuing Community College of the Air Force degree in electronic systems technology Inspirations: Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemmingway and retired Senior Master Sgt. John Howard James Goals: To provide for the people I value...
 
 

ALS graduates 38 senior airmen

The 56th Fighter Wing Airman Leadership School graduated 38 senior airmen March 27 in class 14-3. The award winners are: John L. Levitow Award: Jacob Haydon, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Distinguished graduates: Joshua McIntosh, 56th Operations Support Squadron; Jonathan Sigerson, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron; and Joseph Vandervennet, 56th Maintenance Group Commandant’s Award: Jonathan...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin