JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Feb. 20, 2019 —
The hum of the food court buzzes through the air, but in this roped off section, it is quiet. Individuals wearing bright red jackets are rushing around making last minute adjustments before the big event. Amidst all the hectic chatter, a man sits at his table, looking over old yearbooks. The mural of The Tuskegee Airmen is prominently displayed behind him.
The man is approached by an Airman, who extends his hand as they embrace. Wearing his bright red jacket, the man engages the Airman with a dialogue about his own service and proud history. For this man, Dr. Harry Quinton, an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, it is important for people to know the history and sacrifices made by those he served with.
Established in March of 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen were the group of African-American aviators in the Army Air Corps tasked with flying and maintaining combat aircrafts. At the time, African-Americans were viewed as unable to fly combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen proved this ideology wrong and successfully flew countless missions during World War II and earning more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses until they were disbanded in 1946.
The event, hosted by the Tidewater chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, aims to instill their history by engaging the community in forums at Joint Base Langley- Eustis, Virginia. Members of this organization have tried to impress the importance of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“These are men and women who fought for the right to fight when no one wanted them to fight and it proved that they could fight,” said Dr. Bill Burrell, president of the Tidewater chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. “It’s important for all generations to know this, not just African-Americans, not just minorities but for the whole country because this is not just history, this is American history.”
The Tuskegee Airmen helped to integrate the military through their service. The history of these individuals is the history of the Air Force and transcends the racial lines they were created by. Their service was vital to the success of the U.S. during WWII.
“I think it’s important to know the history of this country and what people have done,” said Dr. Harry Quinton, original member of the Tuskegee Airmen. “Some of us have done things that were more or less ignored or doubted but we were able to overcome those obstacles.”
Dr. Burrell would agree that the obstacles faced by those members proved their dedication to fighting for their country and fighting for something greater than just themselves.
“The key was they were determined because they loved their country more than the way they were treated,” said Burrell. “That’s the epitome of service. That’s the epitome of service before self, what they did. The epitome of excellence in all that they do.”
One driving factor that helped to sustain Quinton throughout his military career was the ability to persevere.
“My whole life has been about perseverance. Every day was perseverance and determination,” said Quinton. “I just felt like I could do it, and if you thought I couldn’t do it I was going to do it anyway to show you that I could do it.”
The success of the Tuskegee Airmen allowed for minorities to be treated as equals in the military and this history should be taught to future generations, said Burrell.
“They are great men and women who built a great foundation for our nation,” said Burrell. “They said quitting is never an option, and that should be for every generation we have because we are too great of a country to quit.”