In October of 2010, I decided to attend the Air Show with my family. It was a beautiful, clear day as we entered the gates. Immediately to our right, a large stage was set up and a singer dressed in 1940’s vintage regalia was belting out a popular tune of the era.
Very close to the stage was a booth of Tuskegee Airmen. My heart jumped! I definitely had to go shake their hands. I had watched the movie that came out in 1995 and was so moved by their story. And while the movie didn’t portray any one specific person, I absolutely wanted to meet the real heroes.
Unfortunately, the booth was packed with people, so I made a mental note to circle back around before the air show later that afternoon. After touring the different planes on the field, I started walking toward the Tuskegee Airmen booth. I arrived and there were just two of the five elderly Pilots sitting in the afternoon shade.
Not dissuaded, I walked up and smiled, held out my hand, and probably gushed a little too much about what an honor it was to meet them. To my amazement, they offered me a chair, and I took the opportunity to sit and chat with them.
Our conversation turned towards the rising temperature, the planes, how much they enjoyed coming to air shows, and finally, I broached the subject of their service. I looked at each of them thinking about their service to our country, which at the time, was not kind to them. It wasn’t enough to thank them for their service.
Teary-eyed, I thanked them for persevering through the bullshit and helping to save the lives of hundreds of servicemen. Then one of them asked me, “Did you serve?” Oh boy! I think the salty sailor in me came out, and this opportunity wasn’t supposed to be about me at all
They asked me questions about my service, and one was quick to tell the other that he knew he should have made that bet. “Bet?” I asked, “Yes, you still have your military bearing.” We chuckled, and at that moment, planes began taking off for the air show. “Thank you, young lady, you made our day today.” I shook each of their hands again and told them, “It was such an honor to meet you both!”
To my dismay, I do not remember their names. I suppose too many years have passed. But I will never forget my 15-minutes of being in the presence of Legends!
*This story was first published in the Spring 2021 issue of ©AT EASE! Veterans Magazine. All Rights Reserved.