How often do you have an opportunity to learn history from a living legend? At FNCS we were thrilled to have Dr. Ivan Ware, an original Tuskegee Airman, as the inspirational speaker for our Veterans Day observance on November 9.
I was particularly excited to meet him as my own father had shared stories from his service in the segregated forces of the U.S. Army where he was among the troops landing on Normandy in June 1944.
Dr. Ware traced the long and distinguished service of African American soldiers back to the earliest days of the American Revolution, the 200,000 slaves who joined the Union forces during the Civil War, the Colored Regiment and the Buffalo Soldiers making the frontier safe, the Colored Cavalry serving with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, and the two Colored Infantry companies serving under French command during World War I.
Even before World War II broke out in 1941, young black men began civilian pilot training in Tuskegee, Alabama. With the onset of war and the construction of the Tuskegee Army Air Field, the first dedicated and determined young men volunteered to become America’s first black military airmen. Little did they know that the pilots trained there during the war would establish a standard of excellence that gained them world-wide recognition as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” The 332 Fighter Group flew 15,000 air sorties and the Airmen’s success in escorting bombers in World War II is one that is unmatched by any other fighter group.
Dr. Ware shared an original “dialogue” he created questioning the thousands of slaves who chose to fight for the Union even though they themselves were not free and were discriminated against. In their words, they chose to fight “to show what’s expected of a man – duty, courage, loyalty, faith, honor and dignity.”
He talked about other veterans over the years who were “slighted” through our disdain and disrespect. While we can never make amends to them and can never repay all those who were killed or wounded in service to our country, we have finally begun to make things right. “Today, we honor all veterans; we make no exception.”
In that same spirit of honoring all veterans, we were pleased to recognize the 194 service members and veterans employed at FNCS across the country.
The entire ceremony from presentation of the colors to Dr. Ware’s remarks to the playing of all service songs stirred our hearts and re-energized our gratitude and pride in all those who have worn the uniform of the United States, sacrificing their well-being and their lives to protect and preserve our freedoms.