Recognition honors Tuskegee Airmen

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A granite paver was unveiled Nov. 11 honoring World War II Tuskegee Airmen during a Veteran’s Day ceremony Nov. 11 at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix.

Nate Carr, Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc. treasurer, began the program talking about the history of the battle for liberty the Tuskegee Airmen had to endure, both overseas and at home.

“More than 1,000 Tuskegee pilots received their wings during WWII,” he said, “but for every pilot there were at least 10 Airmen on the ground supporting them. This ceremony today honors the more than 15,000 men and women who were part of the Tuskegee experience.”

Tuskegee Airmen made up a squadron of mostly African-American pilots who flew the P-51 Mustang. The “Red Tail Angels” flew B-17 bomber escorts during World War II, bringing in the lowest casualty rate of escorted bombers.

“Roughly 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Metal on March 29, 2007,” said David Toliver, former ARAC president. “This year has also been important for the Tuskegee Airmen history. Today we will unveil the granite paver between the gun barrel monuments of the U.S.S Arizona and the U.S.S Missouri.”

The Tuskegee Red Tail granite paver is a 40-pound block placed into the ground along with other pavers that memorialize members who served in World War II.

Among leaders who attended from Luke was Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and Bernard Bruce, 56th FW occupational safety manager and ARAC historian.

“I always tell people that history makes us smart, but heritage makes us proud,” Bruce said. “Stories live forever but only if you tell them.”