Tuskegee Wreath Laying Ceremony & Luncheon
Yesterday, we had the honor of attending the Tuskegee Wreath Laying Ceremony and Luncheon which paid tribute to these heroic aviators who served during World War II.
Before we talk more about the events that took place yesterday afternoon, here's a little background on who the Tuskegee Airmen are and a highlight of their many accomplishments.
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had been a U.S Military Pilot.
In 1940, under pressure from black activists and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the USAAC reversed its position on accepting black flight program applicants. However, the brass was not fully committed to this change and anticipated that the program would fail spectacularly.
The new program’s cadets were determined to create a record of excellence during their training and future war service so there could be no doubt about their value as patriots and aviators.
While the Tuskegee airmen did lose 27 bombers planes to the enemy, it was impressive compared to the average for other pursuit squadrons who lost around 46 bombers.
To give you an idea of their accomplishments; The Tuskegee Airmen destroyed over 260 planes, 112 by air and 158 on the ground and they destroyed over 40 Boats, one of which was a German torpedo boat.
Some of the awards they were given as a unit; 1 Silver Star, 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals and 8 Purple Hearts.
Why did they join with everything going against them at the time?
Fighting for a better life was worth it. Although coming back home from a successful escort was something to be proud of the fight to be respected as an African American pilot was not easily changed. But what they did, made an impact and eventually a change.
Daniel L. Haulman, Ph.D., chief of the Organizational Histories Branch of the Air Force Historical Research Agency once said, "If they did not demonstrate that they were far superior to the members of the six non-black fighter escort groups of the Fifteenth Air Force with which they served, they certainly demonstrated that they were not inferior to them, either. Moreover, they began at a line farther back, overcoming many more obstacles on the way to combat… Their exemplary performance opened the door for the racial integration of the military services, beginning with the Air Force, and contributed ultimately to the end of racial segregation the United States."
This year marks the 78th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen. In March of 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award that may be bestowed by the United States Congress.
In attendance for the Tuskegee Events were Mr. Franklin Macon, an original Tuskegee Airman and also a Colorado Springs native. Several members of the Colorado Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated including the President Col (Ret) Mark Dickerson, Shirley Edwards, wife of deceased Tuskegee Airman, Mr. Randolph Edwards, and Peggy Shivers, wife of deceased Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Clarence Shivers.
The Wreath Laying Ceremony and Luncheon was hosted by the Academy's Way of Life Club, as well as the USAFA Commandant of Cadets Brig Gen Goodwin. USAFA Staff and Cadets were also in attendance to pay tribute to this incredible band of brothers including, the USAFA Superintendent Lt Gen Silveria, the USAFA Dean Brig Gen Armacost, Gail Colvin, the Sabre Drill Team, Cadet Gospel Choir, and many more.
Above from left to right: Mr. Macon, USAFA Superintendent Lt Gen Silveria and Peggy Shivers laying a wreath in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Photo Credit: Jeff Holmquist, Senior Editor for the Association of Graduates
Above: Col (Ret) Mark Dickerson, President of the Colorado Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated
After the conclusion of the Wreath Laying Ceremony, it was time for the Tuskegee Airmen Celebration Luncheon "Defying the Odds".
The narrator for the luncheon was C3C Manzi N. Masozera.
The invocation was provided by C2C Zephaniah Miller and opening remarks were provided by the Vice Commandant of Cadets, Col Price.
Throughout the Luncheon, Cadets from the Steel Script performed poetry including C2C Brianna Murray featured in the clip below and C3C Sean Chieves.
The Keynote Speaker was Lt Col Rod Smith, enjoy the clip below of some of his speech for which he recieved a standing ovation.
Afterwards, Lt Col Rod Smith was presented with a Tuskege Airman Celebration 2018 "Defying the Odds" award.
After Lt Col Rod Smith's speech, the Gospel Choir performed an absolutely beautiful rendition of "I Shall Wear a Crown". Enjoy a short highlight of their performance below.
And finally, before the closing remarks the Tuskegee Airmen Hubert L.”Hooks” Jones Chapter (HLHJ), Tuskegee Airmen Chapter presented the Hubert L.”Hooks” Jones Chapter, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. 2018 Scholarship Award to Jonathan Matoke, who was one of three recipients of the award this year and was who also happened to be in attendance at yesterday's events. The HLHJ Chapter also presented the 2018 Cadets in attendance with coins.
C3C Ifeoma Emeka and the USAFA Superintendent Silveria provided closing remarks.
To view the rest of our glimpse into the Tuskegee Wreath Laying Ceremony and Luncheon go to; Galleries - Extracurricular - Cadet Life. Or click the link below.
To see pictures shared to us by Jeff Holmquist during the Wreath Laying Ceremony and C4C Conor Wisentaner during the Luncheon go to; Galleries - Public Gallery. Or click the link below.