April 7, 2017

Tuskegee Airmen legacy thrives

by Airman 1st Class CALEB WORPEL
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The fourth Thursday in March has become a significant date in Arizona as a day to celebrate the famed Tuskegee Airmen who helped shape the diverse culture of the United States Air Force.

Luke Thunderbolts, members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen and community members came together to take part in the Fourth Annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day, March 23, 2017 held at the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Air Park in front of the red tail F-16 static display.

“We highlight this as a celebration because we want to pay it forward,” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing occupational safety manager and ARAC historian. “I think what the Tuskegee Airmen story does for the Air Force is highlight diversity and the value it holds.”

The 302nd Fighter Squadron, which was one of four African-American fighter squadrons to enter combat during World War II, was attached to the 944th Fighter Wing Reserve Component, which calls Luke home today. More than 15,000 combat sorties were flown and 250 German airplanes destroyed by the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII advancing the United States toward ultimate victory.

“We want people to understand where we came from, where the contributions were made and why it is important for us to remember the events of the Tuskegee Airmen,” Bruce said. “It is historically significant.”

The commemoration ceremony highlighted the Tuskegee Airmen’s commitment to aviation history and the struggles of overcoming racial discrimination. During the ceremony, military honors were performed to recognize the Airmen including speeches from distinguished guests, the laying of a wreath at the base of the static display and the Luke AFB Honor Guard playing of taps. There was a luncheon at Club Five Six immediately following the ceremony.

“The real impact of the Tuskegee Airmen has to be looked at in the context of the great obstacles that had to be overcome,” said retired Col. Richard Toliver, author and second generation Tuskegee Airmen. “Not only did they have to fight to win the war overseas, they had to prove themselves and fight to overcome stiff racial suppression back at home.”

Although many of the original Tuskegee Airmen have passed away, Luke plans to continue hosting the commemoration day to continue sharing the legacy left behind by these American heroes.

To view the Tuskegee Airmen Tribute video, go to

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


Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider

Five new Critical Care, Emergency Trauma nurses ready to provide care

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider Critical Care and Emergency Trauma Nursing Fellowship Class 18A graduates stand with Lt. Col. John Beshai, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron flight surgeon and guest speaker,...

Team Luke honors life, legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Caleb Worpel Airmen assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing participate in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day remembrance march at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 18, 2019. The march was a re-enactmen...
Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid

New 56th Communications Squadron facility to open in 2020

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid Oscar Siqueiros, Army Corps of Engineers project manager discusses building plans for the new 56th Communication Squadron building, Jan. 14, 2019 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz....