Thank God he was still alive to receive it! 97-year-old Tuskegee Airman Brewer “Brew” Graham was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Thursday.
America’s oldest Tuskegee airman has finally been honored seven decades after he fought in World War II.
Graham has remained under the radar for decades and he’s been omitted from various recognitions, including the 2007 Gold Medal-honoring ceremony of the Tuskegee Airmen, held by then-President George W. Bush.
That changed though, with the release of Red Tails earlier this year, which prompted his wife to contact producers for recognition of her ailing husband’s combat service.
“My husband Brew Graham is a Tuskegee Airman with the 99th fighter squadron and is believed to be the oldest living one, He is 97 years old. No one has bothered to get in touch with him. We live in Riverdale, GA you have our e-mail address. He has a hearing problem so he does not talk on the phone (only in person) Why is he being ignored?” Mrs. Graham wrote to LucasFilms , which released the hit film.
In response, LucasFilms forwarded her email to military officials and members of the Atlanta chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., who verified that Mr. Graham was a documented original Tuskegee Airman, in active service during the daring period of the 99th deployment for overseas duty in April 1943.
This week, Graham received a three-inch bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal from Congressman David Scott, issued collectively to the Tuskegee Airmen five years ago by President Bush. It is the same replica presented to some 300 surviving Airmen who were present at the ceremony. The original medal remains permanently housed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American pilots who fought in World War II. Yet they were still subjected to racism and segregation both within and outside the military.
Nearly 1,000 black fighter pilots trained as a segregated unit at a Tuskegee, Ala., airbase.
Born in Mississippi, Graham was a mechanic. His friends told Channel 2′s Diana Davis he learned to fly when the white pilots of planes he maintained didn’t trust his work. He flew test flights to show them planes were air worthy.
“Here you got people who didn’t want you to go, who looked at you as second-class citizens, said you didn’t have the guts or the nerve to this, to go fight, and they scratching, they’re eager, they’re fighting,” Graham said.
We’re proud of our servicemen and great ones like Mr. Graham. And we’re glad he got his long overdue recognition.
Photo Credit: Stan Coleman/Twitter