‘Red Tails’ narrate memoirs during Black History Month

| March 5, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Jackson
18th Medical Deployment Support Command Public Affairs

FORT SHAFTER — Almost daily, Soldiers get a chance to experience a part of military history in the making and to relive history from past service members’ experiences.

That was the case for 18th Medical Deployment Support Command Soldiers as two Tuskegee Airmen, formerly known as “Red Tails,” relived moments in their military careers during the unit’s observance of African-American/Black History Month at the Aliamanu Military Reservation Chapel, Feb. 22.

William Holloman III and Alexander Jefferson, both retired Army lieutenant colonels, shared their military experiences with unit members, including those experiences they considered unpleasant.

“African-Americans have made many, many rich contributions to our history, and we’re left (out) of history books,” Holloman said. “Statements are still being made today about African Americans from the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, the Korean War and even today about Iraq and Afghanistan, that are inaccurate.”

Holloman discussed experiences he had while serving, comparing his positive relationship with fellow caucasian service members while deployed overseas, to the negative reaction he received after returning to the United States, where he was greeted by white- and black-only signs at the end of ships’ gang planks.

“However, the Tuskegee Airmen’s reception in the U.S. has been much better in the last 20 years than in 1945,” Holloman said. “Our nation has changed, and how we treat each other in America has changed. This is a great country. Be proud of it.”

The two airmen told the crowd that they went from being called the “colored” pilots, to the “Negro” pilots, to eventually being referred to as Red Tails, signifying the color of their planes’ tails.

Jefferson described the difference between being African-American in the military service in those days and today, saying that back then, he had to learn to play the game by being prepared.

“Advancement and reaching your dream comes from being prepared and pushing yourself,” he said. “Challenges come, but with perseverance and will, you can make it.”

Holloman added, “The Tuskegee instructors didn’t have time to coddle us. If you didn’t work hard, you were sent back to the infantry.”

Jefferson, who was imprisoned for nine months in a camp called Stalag Luft III after his plane went down during a southern France mission, encouraged audience members to learn more about history.

“If you don’t know from whence you came, you don’t know where you are today, and you don’t know where you’re going,” Jefferson said.

“There’s no other nation in the world that looks like ours, because we’re very diverse and (our country) was built on the backs of those diverse people,” said Col. Michael McDonald, 18th MEDCOM chief of staff. “This could be considered a good class on what the Army calls ‘consideration of others,’ and it proves that the military has been on the forefront, because the armed services cannot be built on prejudices.”






Category: News, Observances

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