A Tuskegee Airman teaches me a lesson

Tuskegee Airman TSgt. (Ret.) George Watson Sr. is presented the Purple Heart medal by Congressman Christopher Smith and Col. Gina M. Grosso, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst commander, May 10. He received the medal for injuries he sustained more than 66 years ago after a German air raid on his encampment near Naples, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Wayne Russell)

Tuskegee Airman TSgt. (Ret.) George Watson Sr. is presented the Purple Heart medal by Congressman Christopher Smith and Col. Gina M. Grosso, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst commander, May 10. He received the medal for injuries he sustained more than 66 years ago after a German air raid on his encampment near Naples, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Wayne Russell)

(For my Facebook readers, Facebook is horrible at displaying pics with it’s matching blog post. Please click the “view original post” link below to see pics properly.)

We have a couple of Tuskegee Airmen who reside on the East Coast. Whenever they have some military affairs to tend to, they usually stop by McGuire AFB.

George Watson is one of those Airmen. (If you don’t know the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, Google it young’uns!)

Most folks think of pilots when they hear about the famous group, but you should know that in the Air Force, we use the term “Airman” to describe all people who support aviation … The Tuskegee Airmen were not only pilots, but there were Airmen who fixed the planes or delivered the fuel for them. As an enlisted troop, Watson was one of them.

Watson was injured during World War II, but never reported it for fear of being separated from his unit while they investigated his claim. While this may not seem like a big deal today, consider the environment of the Tuskegee Airman back then. Think about the challenges Black Airmen faced back then, and one might understand why he wouldn’t want to leave the friends he trained with to be immersed in a medical environment with unfamiliar faces.

But, when he retired, he tried to set the record straight.

It wasn’t an easy task. Few people would listen to his story since he retired, and hospitals didn’t take his claims seriously. Watson had to do a lot of fighting to get proof of his injuries, which wasn’t easy considering all the years that have gone by.

A Congressman had to get involved before he finally received his due last week. After 66 years, Watson was recognized for the wounds he sustained while serving.

It was kind of inspiring for me, but not in the patriotic sense. Instead, I realized that if Watson can fight for 66 years to get what he deserves, it’s okay for me to be a bit more outspoken when the situation calls for it.

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