Tomorrow at midnight we Americans are, by the calendar, about equidistant between Election Day (just held on Tuesday, November 2) and Veterans Day (coming up on Thursday, November 11). 
     Kudos to everyone who voted on Tuesday!  The privilege to cast a confidential ballot is one of the rights that the American veterans we honor next Thursday served, fought and died for over the past 235 years.
     As black men, the Tuskegee Airmen had the right to vote per the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was passed in 1870.  Their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were guaranteed the right to vote per the 19th Amendment – that one gave the vote to women – which was ratified in 1920.  However, harsh and demeaning segregation practices were still deeply entrenched in the U.S. –  particularly in the South – through the first half of the 20th century.  Thus it wasn’t really until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that voting rights were recognized and protected for black voters of both genders.
     The point of mentioning this is to remark yet again on how in the early 1940s, the young black men who would eventually become known as the Tuskegee Airmen were determined to fly and fight for a country that on paper gave them certain rights yet in reality discriminated against them because of the color of their skin.  Tuskegee Airman Major (ret.) Joseph P. Gomer has said that the Airmen wanted to fight against the Axis powers in WWII because “this was the only country we had.”  This attitude prevailed among the Airmen despite the slights they experienced such as not having salutes returned even though they were military officers and seeing German POWs being treated better than they were as returning veterans who happened to be black.
     This Veterans Day, we honor all the American men and women who have served (and are serving) in the military.  Many overcame obstacles based on skin color, gender and circumstance to serve the country they loved. We owe them all more than words can say.


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