The surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who fought the Germans in WWII in a segregated Army Air Corps have been invited to the inauguration tomorrow of America’s first African-American president. The LA Times article, frankly, choked me up.
Before he enlisted, Searcy had been unaccustomed to segregation, having grown up the grandson of a prosperous landowner in East Texas. He got his first taste after basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas, when he was selected to lead a group of airmen to Tuskegee, Ala.
As he stood in uniform on the dusty, wind-swept platform, porters told him that his men would be confined in their train car for days, barred from the Pullman car’s dining and sleeping quarters.
“I demanded that they give us equal passage to get there, off and on, to eat and sleep with the rest of them,” he said. “They was shocked and surprised.”
The porters, who were mostly black, eventually relented.
Looking back, Searcy says he had to speak up.
“I was put in charge of those men,” he said. “I felt I had to represent what the Constitution was for those men. That’s what leadership is.”
He went on to serve in Italy and was honorably discharged Oct. 27, 1945, with commendations for supporting combat missions over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Now Searcy no longer wants to forget the past. He said he owes it to comrades who have died — “Lonely Eagles,” the airmen call them — to stand beside the nation’s first black president, to embrace his past and claim his place in history.
“The next generation need to see something different, a change from what it was, what it used to be,” Searcy said. “And he represents that change.”
It’s a painful glimpse back in time, but well worth reading. Hopefully, it inspires people to read more about the Tuskegee Airmen and their piece of American history. And this is a wonderful gesture by the incoming president.