The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

June 22, 2013

Tuskegee Airmen on mission to teach students

(Continued)

"In my personal opinion, we're starting to lose who the Tuskegee Airmen were," he said. "If we don't talk about it, it's going to be forgotten. We need to make sure they understand what they did and their mark in history."

Fellers and other organizers plan to hold the school annually in Atlanta, and their goal is to eventually expand it nationwide.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-Americans to both prepare and fly combat airplanes in World War II.

Trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, hundreds of the Airmen worked to maintain planes and their base, while fewer than 1,000 pilots flew missions, Fellers said. No one can say for certain how many Tuskegee Airmen are still living, said Sandra Campbell, a spokeswoman with Tuskegee Airmen Inc., the national group that works to keep their legacy alive.

Tuskegee Airmen and their aircraft have been referred to as "Red Tails" for the red-painted wings of their airplanes. Hollywood producers used the name as the title of a 2012 film showcasing the unit's struggles and its accomplishments.

President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in 2007.

During the medal ceremony, Bush said of the airmen, "They were fighting two wars. One was in Europe, and the other took place in the hearts and minds of our citizens."

Receiving the award "brought home to us the importance of our role and what it means to people coming along after us, particularly the African-American men," said Archer, who added that he feels a responsibility to make an imprint on the students' lives.

Asked before he met with students what he would say to them, Archer paused, noting that he had put a great deal of thought into that.

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