Downtown Orlando celebrated Veterans Day on Saturday with one very special star in attendance. 93-year-old Air Force Col. Charles McGee was clad in a black bomber jacket embroidered with the words “Tuskegee Airmen” in gold over his heart as he snapped photos with the crowd.
The annual Veterans Day parade took place in the city’s downtown district.
He was one of four trailblazing “Red Tail” black fighter pilots featured at the event. The men were among the first black military aviators of the historic Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. The “Red Tail” pilots were trained at the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Ala., and distinguished by the red tip of their P-51 Mustang planes.
At the time, it was widely expected that an all-black military flight program would fail, but the group proved otherwise. At least 350 Red Tail pilots were deployed and completed 1,500 missions, bringing down more than 260 enemy craft.
Red tail pilots Lt. Col Leo Gray, Lt. Col. Hiram Mann and Maj. Ralph Turner joined McGee in the parade. Dozens of marching high-school military groups and elderly veterans succeeded the pilots during the procession. On Monday, the Red Tail legacy will be honored locally with the unveiling of a monument at the Orlando Science Center.
A 2012 release of the fictional film “Red Tails” reignited attention and appreciation of the pilots largely responsible for integrating the United States Air Force.
Congratulations to all of our Veterans who bravely, and proudly served our country.