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Celebrating Black History Month--Contemplation: My Friends, My Heroes

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A man with no sense of his past has no future as he is destined to the same pitfalls of his forefathers.  With that thought in mind, I contemplate my past, present, and future. It is something that I usually do as Black History Month draws near. My own barometer for “ how goes it?”

In my lifetime, African Americans have gone from manning the washroom to ruling the boardroom. We have struggled past Rosa Parks’ seat on that bus to Barack Obama’s seat on Air Force One. Yes much has been accomplished during the past 50 or so years, but there is still a long way to go.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr provided us with the perfect barometer when he dreamed of the day when we would all be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. Don’t lay down your tools now ...There is still work to be done...

Three years ago, Captain Freeman wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen.  This year, he sent us his thoughts on Black History Month, and we thought his new material goes well with the original post below. 


There I waslou-at-ceremony.JPG...(that's typical of how most pilot stories begin) so, there I was, standing in the Capital Rotunda watching as the President of the United States and Speaker of the House, among others, recognized the men and women of a World War II Military Unit.  They were honoring these people with a Congressional Gold Medal Award.  The rotunda was absolutely packed with an overflow crowd that spilled into the Statuary Hall.  I was thrilled that Southwest Airlines offered me the opportunity to attend this invitation-only affair proclaiming our Nation's respect and gratitude for their jobs well done sixty years prior. Many of the men and women being honored had remained in the military after the war and had distinguished themselves as Senior Master Sergeants, Lieutenant Colonels and Generals (including a 4-Star among them).  Most of the unit, however, had left the military and distinguished themselves as business leaders, principals, and college professors.  Some even became mayors of major cities.  The Members of this unit have the distinction of being the only Bombers Escort Unit to never lose a bomber to enemy fighters, and they were the first U.S. pilots to shoot down a German jet fighter.  They fought the war against Germany, the war of acceptance, and the war against racism, and they distinguished themselves in each arena.  They are the men of distinction.  lou-in-hallway.JPG They are the Tuskegee Airmen; my friends and my heroes.

Adventurer B
Recognition can sometimes be late in coming... but never was it better deserved! Those brave men and women not only had to fight the ennemy, they also had to prove themselves to their peers, and their outstanding track record helped to fight prejudice. They embody a set of moral values that could put most of us to shame. We should also not forget that in the US army, at the start of WWII most "colored" personnel was not allowed to serve in frontline units, and as the war progressed, a large number elected to drop through the ranks (ie a sergeant volunteering as a basic infantryman) to be posted to combat units in need of replacements.
Explorer C
As the daughter and niece of Tuskegee Airmen, I thank you for your comments about these wonderful Americans. Although my own special Tuskegee Airmen are gone now, the Tuskegee Airmen organization lives on, promoting education and aviation. They deserve our support!
Explorer C
I have been honored to be in the Tuskegee Airmen's presence when they visited the Southwest Ailrines headquarters in 2005. Ever since then, I have been amazed at their achievements and hard work. It was incredible to see the turnout we had to honor these men. From elementary school kids to aviation buffs to active & retired military, I saw a diverse audience who desired to learn more and, like me, was in awe as we were next to history-making individuals. I still get goose bumps when we saw the look on their faces as we honored them with a fly-by an F-16, T-6 Texan, and P-51 Mustang aircraft. The AirmenÃ
Adventurer B
Where would those of us here today be without those who came before? I know that had to be one of the proudest days of your life Lou. Thanks for sharing it with us. Ray
Adventurer A
The greatest generation that ever lived. I could not imagine all that these men had to endure. Everytime i watch a documentary on war world two i get choked up just seeing the great loss of life, and yet their perseverance to continue to defend our freedom. Our country has come along way when it comes to abolishing racism, but we still have ways to go. I salute these fine men, and i thank them for paving the way so that all of us can live in absolute freedom. USS BLOG BOY
Adventurer B
Lou, great article and great pictures! You are my friend and my hero. Lets hear it for our alma maters - Woodrow Wilson High School and East Texas University (Texas A & M at Commerce)!!
Aviator C
Lou, I can't think of a better respresentative than you to attend this long overdue celebration of courage and sacrifice. Your post and the celebration of Jackie Robinson this last Sunday show how far we have come in breaking down sterotypes, but it also shows us how far we have yet to go. As Ray said above, we owe so much. Brian
Adventurer C
The Tuskegee Arimen aren't (and weren't) just great pilots. They're great Americans. I had the pleasure of hearing a couple of them speak when I was working for the federal government a number of years ago. Also, a few years back I got to interview Gus McLeod, who was the first to fly an open cockpit plane to the North Pole; he cited the Airmen as his inspiration. Gus later was a contestant on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race, along with his daughter Hera.
Explorer C
Lou, great post I could not think of a better person for Southwest Airlines to ask to represent us than you... You made history when you became our first African-American Chief Pilot. I have a number of the Tuskegee Airmen as friends and I know they are very proud of you. "G"
Explorer C
Papa Freeman! We love you...we are Nikki's friends. Nikki is an awesome person. We hope to meet you soon. Love Anarghya and Phil.
Explorer C
My wife and I were at the Nashville International Airport this past July putting our ten year old grand daughter on a plane to Reno with her grandmother. We were having trouble finding her grandmother at the airport so we went ahead and checked her and her baggage in. Only one of us could accompany her to the gate. Well, even though my wife is her step-grandmother, my grand daughter Hailey loves her as much as one can love another. Her other grandmother is my ex-wife who is not real pleasant to be around so I decided that I would accompany Hailey to the gate. When Hailey heard that my wife, her Nana, would not be going to the gate with her, her eyes filled with tears. The Southwest clerk saw her crying and said " I just can't take the tears" and printed out another ticket for my wife. This is one of the reasons why I will always be a Southwest customer. I don't know the clerks name, but God Bless her and her kindness. I will always fly with the heart. Gary Marsh
Explorer C
A great post! My grandparents also fought against racism and lost a lot during that war! And although they are not distingushed now, their feats will livw in our hearts and minds forever.
Explorer C
I grew up with Lou he was my brother Ed's best freind. He has allways been a great guy. We are so pleased to see he is doing great things ,it is not a supprise to us.
Explorer C
Hey Lou, it has been a long time. I thought I would look you up since we lost track of you years ago, but I see you are doing well. I would like to catch up on things with you. Take care, God bless.
Explorer C
I would like to add Deaf History Month which is celebrated annually in the USA from 13 March to 15 April. Kyle H Lacy
Explorer C
Southwest is not and never be what African Americans are brainwashed to believe here's why With great sadness I must write about racism and how it is alive in the corporate world. I was travelling back from the east coast into SFO and the buzz was about a black female southwest employee being called a "black bi*ch" by a white passenger and that passenger being able to take a later flight. This passenger was being assisted by asian and white employees who obviously did not care about the effects their actions would have on their co worker. This is just sad. I am sure Southwest Airlines will cover this up! Meschelle Byerly
Aviator C
Hi Meschelle, I have asked our Customer Relations Department to research this to see what actually happened. Brian
Explorer C
Hey ppl . I am Naruto from Argentina, nice to be here.. i live in san miguel and just join here recently . hope to learn new stuffs here and I love performing arts. :) Nice to meet u guys.