This is a special note from Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C pilot. Bill is not only an active member of the CAF, he volunteers his time with the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the Urban Pilots Network to inspire others to achieve success.
Aviation has been a part of my life from a very young age. My first inspiration came from my father who was in the United States Marine Corps and served in a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War. After moving to Canada as a kid, I joined the Royal Canadian 19th and 27th air cadet squadrons where I participated in a plethora of fun and challenging activities that prepared me for a future in the cockpit. A string of experiences and hard work led me to become a pilot, and eventually fly warbirds. I’m humbled to have stood on the shoulders of the brave Tuskegee Airmen who paved the way for me.
I’ve had the opportunity to listen to many stories of how the Tuskegee Airmen have made a positive impact on so many lives. Their influence and inspiration spans the eras – yesterday, today and tomorrow. By honoring their legacy and sharing their experience, we can have a positive impact and educate people of all ages. These experiences fuel my passion to volunteer for Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and the CAF Red Tail Squadron.
I’m also a member of the Urban Pilots Network. This group gives their time and talent to bridge the gap between aviation and the urban community. I currently participate in outreach programs with the group and try to “Inspire for Higher,” which is our motto. Carving out time to give to these worthy groups isn’t easy, but it’s a labor of love that I believe is very important. It’s my way of paying forward the opportunities the Tuskegee Airmen worked hard to ensure that people of color like myself could have.
It’s a privilege to pilot the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang around the country and speak to kids and adults about the importance of the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. I’ve particularly enjoyed the times I’ve worked directly with original Tuskegee Airmen who so generously give of their time to volunteer with our organizations. Their experience can translate to all ages and backgrounds. I’ve tried to live by the example they’ve set, and I hope my volunteer work can impart that positive message to others.
In the New Year, I wish you all a renewed and refreshed spirit to carry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. May they be remembered and honored for generations to come.
Inspire for higher!
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 www.redtail.org.