Beaver County PAThe CAF Red Tail Squadron has a unique way of inspiring people. Melanie Burden has been a volunteer with the organization since 2012 after she saw the original film “Rise Above” in our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit. It was her moment of inspiration.

“The moment I saw “Rise Above” I knew I wanted to share the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. I walked out feeling so many emotions and inspired to do better, to be better,” she said. “It is important to keep history alive and also to understand what the Tuskegee Airmen can still teach us today about perseverance and overcoming adversity. Their principles are something everyone can all learn from and aspire to – regardless of age, gender, religion or color.”

Burden is quite a dedicated volunteer. Her “day job” as a field adjudicator in the insurance industry keeps her busy, but she finds time to join us on the road, even commuting to one of our cross-country destinations all the way from her home in Canada! She holds a private pilots license and loves to travel and meet new people from all walks of life. But she stresses that you don’t need to be a historian or aviation enthusiast to volunteer with the CAF Red Tail Squadron. “The beauty about volunteering is knowing you can make a difference and you are helping to carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen,” she shares. “Life can be very short so I believe we need to appreciate every moment we have, while we have it, and hope that we can make a difference along the way.”

In her years on the road with the Squadron, she’s had the opportunity to make fond memories and many friends, and meet some outstanding celebrities – original Tuskegee Airmen! She has been humbled by these special opportunities to visit with the airmen and learn from their experience.

“As a volunteer there are many priceless moments to cherish, including helping veterans sit in the Mustang and watching their eyes swell up from the nostalgic feeling of times gone by,” she says. “I’ve seen the excitement on a child’s face after they’ve watched the “Rise Above” movie or got an up close look at our aircraft. There have been many handshakes, hugs and smiles to say ‘Thank You’. But the best part is knowing that in some small way they were all touched by the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. And the CAF Red Tail Squadron team of volunteers help make that happen!”

From all of us at the CAF Red Tail Squadron, thank you Melanie for your dedication to our mission and for being a positive face for our organization. You have directly helped educate audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and we are proud to have you on our team!

If you are interested in joining us in our mission, contact CAF Red Tail Squadron Volunteer Coordinator Ken Mist at to learn more. RISE ABOVE!


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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