Monday, April 19, 2010

Hanging With History

© 2010 Leighann Lord

(4/19/10 -- I was saddened to learn that Spann Watson, one of the original Tuskeegee Airmen, passed away on April 16th, 2010. I had the pleasure of meeting him in February and wrote a brief blog about the experience. I feel terrible that I never got around to posting it. I do so now to honor his memory and his invaluable contribution to American History.)

I seem to be spending a lot of time with men in uniform. I recently had the pleasure of meeting retired Lieutenant Colonel Spann Watson. Who's that? During World War II he served as a P-40 Mustang pilot with the famed Tuskegee Airmen's 99th Fighter Squadron. I'm running in very historical circles.

We were both part of a Black History Month program for The Food & Drug Administration. LtCol Watson was the Key Note speaker. A sharply dressed 93-year-old with perfect posture, it was thrilling to hear him regale the audience with stories of his childhood, seeing Charles Lindberg fly, attending More House college and what things were like for Black Service men.

During World War II, the 332nd Fighter Group (which the 99th Fighter Squadron later fell under) was involved in 1,578 combat missions. The Tuskeegee Airmen damaged or destroyed 409 enemy aircraft, garnering 744 Air Medals, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Lt Col. Watson reminded us of time when it was widely believed that Black men wouldn't make good soldiers or pilots. The audience cracked up when he said, "If you think Black Men can't fight, then go outside and grab one."

I hope I'm still that funny at 93.

(SPECIAL THANKS TO: Ron Brewington, former National Public Relations Officer, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. who read this piece and emailed me to correct its errors. I really appreciate it!)

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

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