This story was submitted by Annie Lewis, a college student who was a guest of the Commemorative Air Force at a Veterans Day event in Geneseo, NY.

On a beautiful fall day in western New York, veterans, family members and peers gathered with Congressman Christopher Collins at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.

Although 15,000 of the original Tuskegee Airmen were collectively granted a Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in 2007, not all were able to be there. Five of the men who missed the original ceremony were honored this Veterans Day with a medal and flag in front of a packed crowd in the museum’s hangar. Wallace C. Higgins and Herbert Thorpe accepted their honors in person, while family members accepted awards for Leland H. Pennington, Richard Thorpe, and Robert M. Johnson, who have passed on.

a-dscf7647CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader Bill Shepard was a featured speaker at the event.

“There are no words to completely express the honor and pride that I felt to be a part of this event,” remarked Shepard. “We were able to celebrate the contributions of a group of individuals that forever changed the face and the landscape of today’s military through commitment, perseverance and sacrifice to our great country.”

Michael Joseph, historian of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., described the importance of their history to the crowd.

“The Tuskegee Airmen often came home to stares of disbelief when they told of what they did during the war,” he said. “Their children and grandchildren would cry when told by their teachers that they could never serve in that capacity because it’s not mentioned in the history books. We have a heritage to protect and a legacy that we must pass on. That is what we are doing here today.”

a-dscf7668The ceremony garnered approximately 300 attendees. Many family members of the Airmen were touched by this amount of support.

“When I came in, I was shocked to see all these people here to honor my brother,” said the brother of Robert M. Johnson. Johnson was killed in service in 1944 at the age of 19. His brother received the medal for him.

Congressman Collins said that he was honored to lead the ceremony, and thanked the veterans and family members for participating.

Following the ceremony, attendees could visit the National Warplane Museum to view their exhibits of actual WWII aircraft collections. The museum also holds airshows to put these planes back in the air.


The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at


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