By: Arianna Poland
As part of Veteran’s Week celebrations taking place all over campus, the college will hold an event honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.
Honoring the History and Service of the Tuskegee Airmen, a collaboration between Marketing and Event Management and Veteran’s Services, is part of the Polsky Series, a program that includes a number of topics not currently offered in a formal academic setting. The event will be at 7 p.m., Nov. 9, in Yardley Hall and is free, but reservations are appreciated.
Christy McWard, Director of Marketing and Events, said she hopes people learn something new and that they’ll walk away saying ‘”Wow, I had no idea…that is part of our history.'”
“We felt this was a great way to honor a brave and elite force of our World War II armed forces,” McWard said.
George Dunmore, Vice President and Public Relations Office for the Heart of America Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen of America, will be a featured speaker at the event. Also speaking will be Charles Ellington, an original Tuskegee Airman.
Because of extreme segregation in the armed forces, African-Americans were not allowed to be aviators; they were usually assigned jobs as drivers or cooks. But in the 1940s, during World War II, that changed due to political pressure on the government to expand the role of African-Americans in the military. The Army Air Corps, which became the United States Air Force, was the first to accept the challenge, thus laying the ground work for more equality in the military; in July 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American pilots. They trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala.
Dunmore will speak about the history and the impact of the Tuskegee Airmen, and there will be a short 20-minute video as well as a photo slide show with pictures of the pilots and mechanics working on the airplanes.
Dunmore said that in regards to country’s progression on race relations, he thinks things are much better and that there has been a 180-degree change. But there is still work to be done.
“Things are certainly better, but there are still forces out there that are against seeing minorities advance,” Dunmore said.
The Tuskegee Airmen played a pivotal role in paving the way for minorities to proudly serve their country.
“I think the success they achieved, and the leadership within the airmen, showed what great military leadership that we could have by welcoming African-Americans into the leadership ranks during a time of widespread discrimination,” McWard said.
Kena Zumalt, Veteran’s Administration adviser, agrees.
“It certainly got the ball rolling, not just for African-American men, but for all minorities, and women, to be able to serve their country. They were leaders and pioneers in the armed services,” Zumalt said.
While a large number of the country’s population doesn’t support the war we’re fighting, most people seem to support the soldiers fighting the war. But it’s also important to remember and honor our veterans, she said.
“If you’re not from a military family, or didn’t serve you probably don’t have the awareness of what’s asked of you,” Zumalt said, adding that she hopes this event will bring that awareness.
McWard thinks the biggest take away from the event will be that people learn this elite air corps existed, and what it meant for African-Americans to become pilots.
“Many students haven’t heard of them [the Tuskegee Airmen] before and their victories in World War II. People are going to be really fascinated by what they didn’t know,” she said.