Wow! That is an understatement. This year’s national convention was held in Orlando, Florida. In attendance were two of the men who participated in the first gunnery competition in 1949. These members of the 332nd were the first Top Guns and they were Tuskegee Airmen. In attendance was also a Medal of Honor recipient. In the back row standing are the four Military Award recipients. Two of them are stationed at Scott AFB. In the front row, second from left is the Medal of Honor recipient. The other men and women are all Tuskegee Airmen. A total of 13 Airmen and women were in attendance.
Now you are probably wondering how many are still alive. It would be improper to tell you who celebrated their 99th birthday, but there was a cake during the convention. Any number would just be an estimate. Almost 1,000 trained as pilots. 450 pilots were sent to combat. Less than 2 dozen pilots are known to be alive. However, each pilot was supported by over 10 individuals. The Tuskegee Airmen organization works hard to find these Airmen around the country. If your father or mother participated in the Tuskegee Airmen experience they should contact TAI.
Let me share just one story. During the convention I met Carl Johnson. He was the last Tuskegee Airmen pilot trained. He had appendicitis and did not get to graduate with his class. He eventually would be sent to Enid Oklahoma to complete his training. After completing his training with the Chinese students he was sent to Lockbourne. The best moment however, was when another member of his class wondered about a classmate who hadn’t graduated with the class. He stated that they always wondered what happened to the classmate who had gotten sick. During this convention, they reconnected.