LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., held a youth lunch at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Aug. 2, in an effort to share past experiences and provide mentorship for youth in and around the Las Vegas area.
The Tuskegee Airmen are the men who enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became America’s first black military Airmen.
Those men were sent to the Tuskegee Army Air Field, Ala., to complete the Army Air Corps pilot training. The “Tuskegee Experiment”, as it was called, was conducted by the U.S. War Department and the Army Air Corps from 1941 – 1946 to determine if African-Americans could fly.
The youth lunch event was part of the 41st Annual Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., National Convention. This year’s convention was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the International Black Aerospace Council member’s co-convention. Children from Las Vegas, Tuskegee Airmen and Air Reserve Command Airmen filled the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino event room for lunch and listened to key note speakers and International Black Aviators Convention members.
“I think it’s very important to reach back to our youth because our youth are our future,” said Maj. Terry Troutman, Air Force Reserve Command plans and programs officer. “Events like this, I think, are a vehicle to get the information out [about past and present happenings]. There’s a lot of information out there.”
The convention, and lunch, afforded those involved the opportunity to share knowledge and a common history, with the goal of bettering their future. The IBAC’s slogan for the convention — “Honoring Our Past – Ensuring Our Future” — reflects the goals of the convention.
Keeping those goals in mind, the event key note speakers discussed inspiration, leadership, and what it takes to make it in society today.
“There are so many people here honoring so many legends and true heroes,” said Larry Jemison, Tuskegee graduate and key note speaker. “When we’re talking about honoring our past and ensuring our future, it’s important for our young folks to understand what our past was. It means understanding the past. It means telling them that 50, 60 years ago we were stripped of a lot of the freedoms and opportunities that we thought should have been afforded to us.”
Jemison said while events like this were a great step in educating youth today, it still impresses him to see children researching their past.
“I love to see the young students come up and speak about Bessie Coleman [The first African American female pilot] and the effects that she had on aviation because it means they’ve researched,” Jemison said. “They’ve found out what it really takes to persevere, even when somebody else doesn’t want you to succeed.”
Jemison said the Tuskegee Airmen’s past stands as an example to everyone to always demonstrate bravery, intelligence, skill and patriotism.
Some of the Tuskegee Airmen’s accomplishments included, but were not limited to, flying more than 1,200 missions, totaling 112 aerial victories during World War II, and being awarded 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses.