The 2012 box office hit Red Tails bolstered the efforts to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen out of obscurity. By putting it on the big screen, millions instantly became aware of these heroes. Even though the movie was Hollywood’s somewhat inaccurate version of history, it did a fantastic job of bringing the Tuskegee Airmen’s importance to the forefront of American culture long enough to spark an affinity for these legendary flyers, especially for a little boy named Quinn Thorne.

Quinn saw the movie that year and was fascinated by the “Red Tail Men,” and then was on a mission of his own to meet them. This was no easy task considering the surviving members are getting quite elderly, and there were no living Airmen near where Quinn lives. Thanks to his father, the generous support of Southwest Airlines and Walter Suggs, president of the Sacramento Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Quinn had a very special surprise for his 5th birthday later that same year. Original Tuskegee Airman Lenard Yates, 87 years young, made the over 1,000 mile journey to meet this little guy in person, who promptly shook the Airman’s hand and thanked him for his service. See this heartwarming surprise unfold here.

Quinn is a little more grownup since that meeting in 2012. And since then his desire to learn about and honor the Tuskegee Airmen has not diminished. His respect for service members has only grown, and he’s demonstrated what a fine young man he is growing up to be.

Quinn Thorne with original Tuskegee Airmen (from top left) Leo Gray, Dr. Roscoe Brown and the late Calvin Spann.

Quinn Thorne with original Tuskegee Airmen (from top left) Leo Gray, Dr. Roscoe Brown and the late Calvin Spann.

He has attended four annual conferences of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., where he’s befriended many original Tuskegee Airmen. He is the group’s youngest member, and the only delegate from Idaho. This past September, Quinn, now 9 years old, spoke at the memorial service of original Tuskegee Airmen Calvin Spann. “I’ve known him for four years, and for four years, he’s been my best friend,” he said. “He’ll always be in my heart and in heaven.”

Impressively, Quinn has raised over $4,000 to help veterans, selling fireworks and putting on a car wash. He is a member of his town’s honor guard and was recently sworn in to the Son’s of America Legion, serving as their Assistant Sergeant of Arms of the Department of Idaho.

A movie can be entertaining and history books can be educational, but as in the case with little Quinn Thorne, it can also inspire someone to become a hero in their own rite. This boy is a beautiful illustration of the Tuskegee Airmen’s continued ability to inspire people of all ages to rise above the obstacles in their own lives to achieve their dreams, across generations.


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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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