A well-decorated veteran who served with the Tuskegee Airman and has a Congressional Medal of Honor was honored on Tuesday at the King Arts Complex.
Colonel Charles McGee said he never thought his service as a Tuskegee Airmen would impact America, and his only objective at the time was to serve his country.
“We didn’t go down there individually or even early together to set the world on fire if you will, and it wasn’t a part of civil rights,” said Colonel McGee. “It was just a part of young people wanting to do something to serve our country.”
McGee, 99, looks back to his time as a Tuskegee Airman more than 70 years ago.
He said right before World War II, he was in college studying to be an engineer.
When the U.S. entered the war, he applied for a pilot’s slot with an experiential squadron and passed the exam.
The rest was history.
“After my first flight even in primary training,” said McGee, “I knew I made the right decision.”
McGee believes the level of success the Tuskegee Airmen had escorting bombers to save American lives helped disprove some American myths, but disproving myths was not their mission.
“We dispelled the biases, generalizations, and sometimes I feel racist ideas that because of color of skin we didn’t have talent, we didn’t have intellect, we didn’t have the moral fiber to successfully support the country in a technical area.”
He understands his service to a country that didn’t see him as an equal paved the way for generations.
His advice for others is simple.
“Perceive, prepare, perform, persevere,” said McGee. “Perceive, dream your dreams and find your talents. Prepare, get a good education, learn to read, write, and speak well and develop those talents that are meaningful. Perform. Let excellence be your goal in everything you do, and persevere. Don’t let the circumstance be an excuse to not achieving.”