History, heritage honored

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.
  • 944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
“History makes us smart and heritage makes us proud,” said Dave Toliver, Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter past president, Mar. 23 during a ceremony here celebrating the fourth annual Commemoration Day for the Tuskegee Airmen in Arizona.

The ceremony took place at the Tuskegee Airman Memorial Park, where a static F-16 stands bearing the historic 302nd Fighter Squadron World War II “Red Tail” honoring the history and heritage of the warriors who endured and accomplished so much.

Over 150 people attended the event including (Ret.) Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, (Ret.) Lt. Col. Asa Herring, and (Ret.) Tech. Sgt. Rudolf Silas, three of the original Tuskegee Airmen. Members of the ARAC Tuskegee Airmen along with leadership from the 56th and 944th Fighter Wings were also present.

The Luke AFB Honor Guard rendered the proper military honors by presenting the colors to kick-off the event and performed Taps while a wreath was laid at the base of the red tail static by the original Tuskegee Airmen.

“Here at Luke I see the Tuskegee heritage alive and well in our Airmen not only in the 944th but in our partners in the 56th FW as well,” said Col. Kurt Gallegos, 944th Fighter Wing commander, during his comments to the group.

This was Gallegos’ fourth commemoration ceremony and his last, as he will retire later this summer.

“I can assure you that our future aviators and maintainers will always remember the Red Tails who paved the way for us,” continued Gallegos. “It has been an honor and a privilege to know all the men and women in red blazers, thank you.”

After the ceremony, everyone was invited to a luncheon at the Club Five-Six to interact and share fellowship time with the original Tuskegee Airmen and chapter members.

In July of 1987, the 944 FW re-activated the 302 FS and a few years later, in March of 2000, they re-activated the 301st Fighter Squadron. Both of these units be¬longed to the 332nd Fighter Group of Tuskegee fame during WWII. The units have since transitioned to the F-22 mission and are located at Elmen¬dorf Air Force Base, Alaska and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico respectively. However, the 944 FW still embraces the proud tradition of the Tuskegee Airmen.

In April 2013, former Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1128 that designates the fourth Thursday in March as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day in the state of Arizona.