A good man is hard to find. So, you can imagine my absolute delight to be in the company of more than 200 living legends – Tuskegee Airmen (and here).
Between 1941 and 1946, an estimated 16,000 to 19,000 black men and women served at the Tuskegee Army Airfield:
....anyone–man or woman, military or civilian, black or white–who served at Tuskegee Army Air Field or in any of the programs stemming from the Tuskegee Experience between the years 1941 and 1948 is considered to be a Tuskegee Airman.
In 1942, the African American paper, The Pittsburgh Courier, called for a double victory campaign: victory in the fight against fascism abroad, and victory in the fight against racism at home.
Today, we come together to pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, who with planes and the power of their example – fought against both of these foes, foreign and domestic.
And as we honor them with the Gold Medal today, we take another in a long series of steps toward victory at home.
I caught up with these American heroes at the Congressional Gold Medal Reception in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. My heart was bursting with pride and gratitude at the sight of black men who “were at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and justice.”
The honorees included Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr. and Dr. Bernard S. Proctor, who served with the 99th Fighter Squadron.
Dr. Proctor’s son, Karl, told me: “He is American history.”
Indeed he is. As President Bush said:
The Tuskegee Airmen helped win a war, and you helped change our nation for the better. Yours is the story of the human spirit, and it ends like all great stories do – with wisdom and lessons and hope for tomorrow. And the medal that we confer today means that we're doing a small part to ensure that your story will be told and honored for generations to come.
The nation owes these true patriots an eternal debt.