Tuskegee Airmen

I sat next to a hero on my flight to Washington DC on Wednesday but I did not know that at the time. I was assigned to an aisle seat in the economy class cabin. My great hope was that the person in the middle seat would be petite, quiet and recently showered. Instead there was a massive man in the seat next to mine. His breathtakingly beautiful wife was crammed against the window. I feared it would be a very long flight.

A flight attendant from the first class cabin took great interest in the couple sitting next to me. She checked on them regularly and ensured their every need was met. From their conversation, I learned that the man sitting next to me was one of the Tuskegee Airmen who had flown in World War II. He and his wife had moved to Colorado in the 1940s. He worked as a pilot for United Airlines for more than 20 years. Indeed, he had trained the captain of our flight that day. As we approached Washington DC, the flight attendant announced that we had a hero in our midst. She told his story to a round of thunderous applause.

My seatmate and his comrades were honored in Washington DC. President Bush and Congress awarded the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.