On Wednesday, March 25, I had the distinct opportunity to interview 3 distinguish gentlemen. “Gabriel Christian,” “Jerry Burton” & “Edward Harbison.”
All three of these gentlemen are former pilots of the U.S. Military and they are very active in the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airman, Inc.
Gabriel Christian & Jerry Burtorn actually flew with the Tuskegee Airman and they know all the history of this Black Pilot Association.
They told the story that many Black Americans don’t know!! That the Tuskegee Airman first started out as Ground Crew and Machinist and then moved to the cockpit.
The time spent with these gentlemen was well spent and actually was not enough time as I have invited them back for a part-2.
Here is some history on The Tuskegee Airman and the EAST COAST CHAPTER, TUSKEGEE AIRMAN, INC.
EAST COAST CHAPTER, TUSKEGEE AIRMAN, INC
The East Coast Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated (ECCTAI) was chartered in Washington DC in 1973 to forge educational and charitable pursuits within the 501(c)(3) Internal Revenue Code by joining together in a bond of fellowship, born of patriotism, those Americans who unselfishly dedicated or are dedicating themselves to the defense of the United States of America through aviation, including, civilian as well as military personnel who pioneered the aviation development at Tuskegee, Alabama, and other training locations. We strive to “Perpetuate the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through historical research, documentation and presentations; motivating youth toward aviation and aerospace careers; and inspiring them towards outstanding achievement and leadership in our democratic society.” ECCTAI is the largest and the most active of over 50 Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. chapters that make up the national organization. Each year, our chapter provides $15,000 in educational assistance grants to college students in need of tuition assistance as well as over $20,000 toward aviation classes in an effort to motivate our next generation of aviation pioneers through aviation experiences like our youth programs that include Educational Assistance Grants and Youth In Aviation Program (YIAP) where youth 15-19 are taught to fly for free.
TUSKEGEE AIRMAN COMMEMORATION DAY
Annual Celebration of Tuskegee Airmen
ECCTAI has CANCELLED this year’s celebration, a wreath laying ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Memorial, on Thursday March 26th, 2020. This would have been the second annual celebration of the newly established Tuskegee Airman Commemoration Day. The fourth Thursday of March of this year and each succeeding year has been declared as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day by the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This day recognizes the tremendous contributions made to our nation by the more than 14,000 men and women who served in the U.S. military’s first African American aviation units.
The East Coast Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc has petitioned the State of Maryland’s legislatures to establish the same, fourth Thursday in March by proclamation to recognize the Tuskegee Airmen; whereas March has special meaning for them:
On 22 March 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was activated at Chanute Field, Illinois and training of the first aircraft maintenance crews began. The first aviation class of thirteen cadets began in July 1941 in Tuskegee; five men completed the training and received their pilot wings in March 1942.
The men of the 99th and of the 332nd Fighter Group flew out of North Africa and Italy during World War II. They completed 1,491 combat missions, shot down 94 enemy airplanes, had 31 men taken as prisoners of war, and lost 81 men. On 27 March 2007 President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest medal awarded by the United States Congress.