Tag Archives: Tuskegee Airman

Musing

Just as I thought, this year is starting out with a bang. As it is said, ‘no rest for the weary’, it is a true saying. I have a lot of things on my plate, don’t have room for anything else at the moment. It is also said that staying busy and/or active keep old bones like mine spry. Nothing is ever said about being tired (smile 🙂 ).

I’m staying busy. I have a Tuskegee Airman program at the Virginia War Memorial coming up, red sport coat and all (see photo). Here at Imperial Plaza the Resident Council and the Activity Committee have a lot to do, like I’m not busy enough. That does not include things with my wife, trips, a few specialty doctor appointments (nothing serious), activities here at Imperial Plaza and I can’t forget my part-time job (always something to do there). I have been at the part-time job a lot lately because so many people are out sick (two were admitted into the hospital). I guess all the activity keep me from all the sickness that is going around. Don’t have time to stop now, gotta keep moving (smiling again).

Don’t rave about the intermittent warm weather we are having since the extreme cold we experienced a little while ago. Remember, January and February can become madding in Virginia where, at times, you’d think you are in the arctic. Yet, I have noticed many people at Imperial Plaza outside with coats open (being stylish), wearing short pants and, at the malls wearing flip-flops. Cold is cold and the older a person get the more the coldness have a bad effect on the body. This may have been okay in a person’s youth but a senior’s body may or may not feel uncomfortable. All of a sudden, this adverse effect from the cold will take a toll on the body. Flu, pneumonia or bad colds can mean catastrophic illnesses that a senior may or may not be able to fight off. It is better to be cautious than to suffer the consequences.

Had a birthday a few days ago. Thanks to all that sent me a birthday wish, THANKS! I worked on my birthday, as usual. Someone asked me why, I told them I can count the number of no work birthdays on one hand. As a senior, I hate to think of birthdays because the older you get the fewer you have left, if any. Not many remember my birthday anyway so I don’t fret, it’s just another day but I better not miss their birthday..

I have been monitoring Facebook, especially the Hahn Hawk page. There have been a lot of activity lately, the comments and pictures have made me realize I’m not young anymore. Most of the guys on the site were just kids when we were there, I was middle aged, now they are having grand-kids, etc. and I have great grand-kids. I served in Viet-Nam but people here served in WWII and The Korean War, they look at me as a youngster. I say that to say this, stay young as you want to be by moving around and keep your eye on the weather, protecting yourself accordingly.

Black History Month is here. Keep in mind what the sacrifices were for. Pray for us that were on the front lines and continue the fight for us. Not only for Black people but for all people. There are factions that are against this and there are many that want to do harm, however, fight on and maybe, one day, the clouds of hate will part and the sun will shine.

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Veterans Day And Jazz

My blog is early because, despite the coolness and rain, this weekend should be a great weekend. Why so great? The Hampton Jazz Legacy in Hampton, Virginia, across the street from the Hampton Coliseum where each spring the Hampton Jazz Festival performs, will have the jazz greats performing for three days. This is a yearly trip for us and I can hardly wait to get out of here to hear great music performed by the greatest jazz musicians around. Many pictures will be taken, good food will be eaten and fine liquors will be drank. Will write to all when the next issue is scheduled to come out and I will tell you all about it.

I attended a meeting of a newly installed DAV auxiliary chapter at Imperial Plaza. During the regular meeting some questions were asked that proves my point about people not reading or understanding the news letters, they do not take advantage of the many things that is provided here nor participate in anything unless it directly gives them an advantage. Or is it they just want to gripe or just to hear themselves talk?

To go on about elections, not to mention the state elections, I just won a seat on the Brookdale Imperial Plaza Resident Council. Last month I was appointed to fill the seat of a person that moved to North Carolina. That seat ends at the end of December and my new term starts the first of January. As I always say, ”get involved-stay involved”. Nothing gets done by sitting, complaining and doing nothing. Everyone can do something, even if it is only manning the phones or something like that. Even though my schedule is tight, my wife and I still try to do our part while still traveling.

Last Monday I was at James River High School for a Veterans Day Ceremony. Myself and three other vets were on stage in the auditorium for a question and answer session. It was great speaking off the cuff, answering the questions asked by the kids through a moderator. On my head I wore my Viet Nam Veteran hat and dressed in my Tuskegee Airman chapter’s outfit (red jacket, black tie, black shoes, black pants and white shirt). Afterward we went outside for a brick laying ceremony at the flag pole. Before we left for home I had a nice talk with the principal of the high school.

Wednesday, Imperial Plaza went to the MGM Casino outside Washington, D.C. in Maryland. Of course my wife and I went, the trip wasn’t bad. Both of us came out okay, didn’t win big but, after six hours there, came back with half of what we took with us. However, I still consider the casino as a place for high rollers (there is a steak house there that have a 36 ounce porterhouse steak for $120, potato $10 and side $8). The antes are also high and that is one of the reasons we seldom go there.. Give me Maryland Live or Charlestown Casino anytime.

The next cruise is coming fast and will disrupt two blogs. The blogs that will be interrupted will be the first two weekends of December. Therefore, I am saying, in advance, I will not write a blog the first two weeks of December nor be in a position to answer most e-mails. Don’t be angry 🙂

Just Small Talk

I’ve said it before , I’ll say it again: It is great being retired and living in a senior community. Here there is plenty of time to do or accomplish whatever you want to do. All is done at your leisure which make retiring that much better. Traveling, reading, television watching, eating out, casino hopping, etc. is all part of enjoying the senior years. Many do not or have not the monetary or physical where with all to do it. Then there is Imperial Plaza.

Imperial Plaza took it’s usual Wednesday trip to Jamestown, Va. The first permanent colony in America. It was sad to see a great trip, that was cheap, not being taken advantage of by the great majority of people living here. Brookdale Imperial Plaza does not make a profit from these excursions yet seldom is there a full bus. Then, as you walk around the area, there are people saying there isn’t anything to do.

At Jamestown we viewed replicas of the Indian village, the English settlement and the museum. There was a bow and arrow demonstration, musket loading/firing demonstration and the showing of the interiors of the church and Indian huts replica. What was also for good exploration were the two ships. The size of the ships were small, by today’s standards, for having carried so many people to the new world. However, thinking of the size of the people in that era, mean there was plenty of room.

After getting back, I had just enough time to get myself clean, change clothes and get to a Mighty Pen Project class at the Virginia War Memorial (it was a humid day). I enjoyed my time with them, can hardly wait for our next time together. I always learn something new because I consider my writing as atrocious. I’ll keep trying to improve hoping I’ll get there one day. I have the two blogs to keep me in practice plus two stories I am still working on but constantly tearing apart for redoing. Each time I get fresh information at the Mighty Pen Project, I have to rewrite but I consider it worth the effort.

As I have written before, I am a member of the Howard Baugh Chapter of the Tuskegee Airman Incorporated who had a ceremony in Petersburg, Virginia. I could not be with them because I was out of town; they had a ceremony at a high school, I was out of town again. I hope to be in town for the next ceremony although I have been lucky enough to be available for the meetings.

It was a fine day for an outing. My wife and I went to the Wine & Hops Festival in Petersburg, Virginia on Saturday. It was okay, however, the lines for the wine and beer were long, there were a lot of vendors in a confined space, the place was very crowded in a small area. Lots of young people attended, being it was a confined area (Old Towne), standing around, made moving from vendor to vendor very complicated. But it was nice to get out, seeing things outside our usual areas of travel.

While in the area, we toured my old stomping grounds (I am originally from Petersburg), Hopewell and Colonial Heights, Virginia. We went to the new Puerto Rican Bakery/Cafe. It opened three months ago and we learned about it on television’s evening news. They are taking items of donation to the storm ravaged Puerto Rico. It’s the only Puerto Rican cafe I know in the area. There was one in Chesterfield but it closed a year ago.

I advise people, especially seniors, to get out and explore, revisit places of yore or new ones. Make time to go, enjoy before there is not enough time left to do it. I know my wife and I will go as much as we can because time is quickly catching up. Have fun and party as if there is not a tomorrow.

Memberships

I am proud to announce that I have been accepted into the Tuskegee Airman, Howard Baugh Chapter. I will be helping to spread the memory of these fine brave men and to help the chapter grow. It is an honor to give a hand and attempt to educate the younger generation about these men. Not only were they the men depicted in the movie “Red Tails”, but they did so much more. If it were not for them, African-Americans would not be where they are today in the military. Black people have been in every war and conflict that this country ever had. They were even on both sides of the Civil War. Another fact I want to put in…Capt. Howard L. Baugh of the 99th Fighter Squadron earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism on a mission on 12 May, 1944.

Then the history goes even further than that. Blacks started out in the Revolutionary War up to the present time. Blacks were flying in other countries before they were reluctantly excepted in the USA. Even then, they were given inferior equipment and segregated from the rest of the units. And looking at the movie “Red Tails”, they still did not gain the respect or honors as others, especially when they came back to America.

After World War Two, they were disbanded but some stayed in the Army and, after the Air Force was founded, some crossed over to it. Therefore, there was army and air force veterans that were actual Tuskegee Airmen in World War Two, The Korean War and The Viet Nam War, not counting the smaller conflicts around the world that we as Americans had a part in. Again, I am proud to be apart of them. I will do my best writing for them and speak when and where ever I can. Check them out on the internet http://www.hbc-tai.org

I am still part of the Mighty Pen Project (MPP), check them out on Facebook. I love to occasionally submit a story or two, for whichever class is in session at the time. The writings get dissected, sliced and diced and my heart sinks when there is something wrong that I should have known better. Such is life and a person learn from the mistakes. Therefore, I am happy to report that the Mighty Pen Project is still going strong and is gaining momentum. Let’s bring more aboard.

There is one more thing that have just come up and I will express my opinion in this blog. In other words, I want to vent so I may go on with life. I try to write my blogs, this one and the one with the religious theme, in a way that everyone can understand, both American and non-American. Some people call it “dummy down”. I call it using plain English. What I am referring to is an article I read the other day that used English but I still could not read it without using a dictionary for every third or fourth word. The article used long intricate words that defied the knowledge of the reader. I really don’t think the average PhD. grad could understand what was written. Why use such wording to confuse the average individual? I say this…I will continue to use plain English and if there is something that is not understood, let me know and I will attempt to clarify it. If I continue to confuse people, I am sorry and will try to change for the better.

Black History Programs

With February being Black History Month I was a little busy. Actually, the way I feel about it, there should be some way Black History is incorporated into each and every month. There is too much history, up front and much, much more hidden (think about the movie Hidden Figures), that is relevant and should be remembered. I have thought about the direction I wanted to go while writing this particular blog but there are many directions and my mind was mixing them all. I think I have a grasp of it for now.

I did not want to write anything that I have read or heard about. I want to give you personal experiences, experiences that are in line with what I am writing. My mind seem to drift off the main subject and I could write much more than I post. I’ll try to make it short and to the point although it is difficult when writing history or about historical figures. For instance, when I wrote about The Last Graduating Tuskegee Airman, I only wrote about the time before he went into the military up to his graduating as a Tuskegee Airman. If I had written his entire story (I have him telling it to me on an over an hour long digital audio recording).

I was a part of one program where I was portrayed as Sen. Obama and then as President Obama. I read his speech when he was running for president and his farewell speech (I used my radio voice from my radio days). That was a nice program and I was told I did well. The audience was very small and I only counted three Black people in the place. Imperial Plaza have enough Black residents to fill the auditorium yet they come to very few programs and this was about them and for them. Yet, they complain there aren’t any programs for them, etc.

The second program was at the Virginia War Memorial. I was on the stage panel for a discussion plus a question and answer period. There were six of us and among us were Tuskegee Airmen, a woman (Army Retired) whose story would make you think of one of the women in the movie Hidden Figures), Viet Nam and the Iraq era. I can’t tell you who was more interesting, the Tuskegee Airmen or her. My input into the program did not hold a candle to theirs and I could have been listening all day to their stories.

The crowd was small and , here again, there should have been many more. After the panel stories, question and answer period, we went outside for a wreath laying. Franklin Military Academy presented The Colors and I assisted in the wreath laying ceremony. We pledged allegiance to The Flag, a female Franklin Academy Cadet sang the National Anthem and a cadet blew “Taps” on his trumpet. The weather co-operated. PBS was there and it aired the next morning and the papers were there but I did not see the article. All of it was beautiful. I could do this all year, not only during February.

The thing I am sad about is for the young people. Most are not interested in history, especially Black history. They know about some of the famous Black people but they do not know about the small things that were accomplished. Most do not want to know who did what or why. They seldom understand what the conditions and hold backs were. I have even found they have a lot of misconceptions about ancient history, like the Pyramids or the oldest operating library in the world. Things like this are important to me, personally, and it helped shape my mind and all my actions through life. The few that soak up history seem to be better because of it.

All of us on that stage at the Virginia War Memorial was a tiny sample of the history that is sort by historians. It was sad only three of four kids were there to hear about the tiny portion of history from the people that produced it. Yes, I am a part of it although I rarely talk about it. It started with Civil Rights and ended at my retirement from the military.

To those before me and/or accomplished more than I have, thank you. To those that are learning about past history, keep digging. There is a treasure trove to find. And, as I have said before, you will never know who you may be talking to because most will not say unless asked. That person may have a background that would shock you. Keep digging…

Casinos

Had another good week last week (this week was just for relaxation and recharging my energy) with a four day trip to Maryland. If you looked at my Facebook page you saw the picture of my wife holding our latest great-grandchild when we made a stop on our way back to Virginia. We were in Maryland to do our usual thing, gamble at the casinos. We headquartered at Maryland Live’s hotel which put us between Horseshoe and MGM. We get perks from all the casinos but decided to use Maryland Live’s because it was between the other two.

Look at it this way; four day stay at their hotel, their perks and our acquired points gave us all our meals and each gave us slot machine money. All I needed was the gas money and a little more to keep it interesting. In fact, we came back with money in our pocket. Can’t beat that for a four day stay at three casinos. Plus we got to visit the baby on the way back (got through Washington the day before the inauguration).

Thinking about that, this is what we ran into. Usually, on week days, the hotel does not have many people staying. I noticed the parking lot almost full and more cars were coming. All the other hotels had the same thing. Then I started calling myself a dummy because, after talking to a couple that was checking-in, I was told that they were getting the hell out of DC before the crowds hit. Then I noticed that most of the cars had DC plates.

After visiting the baby it dawned on me that it was the same area that The Last Graduating Tuskegee Airman (an article I wrote) lived. In fact, I am still trying to get the article printed for the general public. It have been approved by the MPP (Mighty Pen Project) and they have a copy but the Richmond-Times dispatch turned it down. The newspaper say it does not have a Virginia connection although the man live in Ashburn, Virginia. It does not make any sense to me, but who am I to say? Also, the man is Black and his wife is White, they had to live in Washington because of segregation, that is the same as the Loving story that hit the movies last year.

The highlight for this week came on Monday. Four of us from the Mighty Pen Project had a townhall type panel discussion, at The University of Richmond, for a freshman class that is writing about war. They included my two writings on protests in the 1950’s. The question and answering went well and, in fact, we could have gone on much longer than we had time for. This is our second time doing this. The first time was at the Library of Virginia and that went very well also. I hope to do it again.

This year I work on my birthday and my wife is out of town. As I get older, holidays, birthdays, etc. does not mean as much as it did when I was younger. I prefer peace and quiet plus time to read or write. I stay busy, although my wife say otherwise, and I believe staying busy help the body stay active, younger and spry. Inactivity bring on more aches and pains, more than usual, and it can be avoided without medication for that particular ailment. I see too much inactivity around here (Imperial Plaza) although there are so many programs and events for the residents. Most do not attend any of them. Alas, what can I say or do about it? Not a thing.

Until next time…Stay warm, keep on keeping on. I’m out!

A Week of Delectation

I am still on cloud nine from all that I have seen, done and went through this week. In a nut shell, I interviewed the last graduating airman from the famed Tuskegee Airmen of Tuskegee, Ala. Myself and Len Rasmusen, with Len driving, went to northern Virginia to meet with (Ret.) Col. Carl Johnson. He was the last to graduate because before his class graduated he had a bout of appendicitis and was hospitalized. When he got out of the hospital, his class had graduated and he was all alone. He was thinking he would be sent home but, instead, he was allowed to finish his training and graduate as the Last Tuskegee Airman.

At 91, he is clear voiced, full of spirit and was eager to talk about his storied career as an Army Officer although he did time in the USAF and the Army National Guard. Through him, I found out about Tuskegee Airmen flying bombers, although it was after WWII. He also flew in Korea and Viet Nam and was posted at the Pentagon, among many other places. Len and I viewed a number of scrapbooks and saw pictures of many people of note, such as Gen. Chappie James as a lieutenant. We were told that he was good friends with Chappie James, because he was his co-pilot, and they remained friends for years.

I have it all recorded so I can refer to it as I write a longer, more precise, work for The MPP (The Mighty Pen Project), the Virginia War Memorial and self-gratification. I love history. Everything about history. I love to dig deeper as I ask the question, why? I don’t mind the research nor do I mind the inevitable self induced trance I fall into.

In the middle of the week Imperial Plaza took us to the new Afro-American Museum, officially entitled, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. After lunch in Washington, D.C., we traveled the very short distance to the museum, which was very crowded. A word of caution for anyone that is planning to go there. Go on-line and get tickets first but plan to wait a few months before the tickets will allow entrance. Getting tickets now will allow you entry in April or May although there is a line for people that arrive without a reservation but there is not a guarantee that you will get in that way, even if you wait all day.

There is no way you can view the entire museum in one day so I concentrated on the lower three floors (basement) of the eight floors. I quickly went through most of the displays, not spending too much time on any one thing. I had three hours and almost didn’t make it although three hours seem like a long time but when you are engrossed in the displays, time flies and there is so much.

The thing that bothered me most were not the displays but the kids. Most of the kids were either running through the place, playing with each other or mindlessly texting. The great majority were not interested and, I will make a bet, could not tell you about anything there. What a shame. What a waste.

In that section was a short display on the Tuskegee Airmen and, I noticed, one of the pictures on display was one that I took a photo of from Col. Johnson’s scrapbook. There, on display, is one of the planes that the Tuskegee Airmen flew (The Spirit Of Tuskegee) and a few other pictures. I wish the display had more but you take whatever there is to take. The photos of some of the grotesque hangings done to my people where very haunting to say the least. The display of an actual slave house really show how small they were for the number of people that lived in them, or should I say survived in them. That’s all there was then, survival any way you could.

That was my week and I am overjoyed to have lived it. Col. Johnson and the museum made my entire week and I’m happy for it. Imperial Plaza’s Activity Department get thumbs up for the work in getting tickets, getting us there and getting us back safely. Praises to Kayle, Ron and Jerome.

See you next blog. Don’t forget to check out my other blog, although it will automatically pop up on other sites (twitter, google, etc). The weekend is coming and my wife and I are off again. Our schedule is full and we have a lot of fun and adventures to catch up on. Bye-bye and remember…Be kind to your neighbors and ensure your words are soft and sweet.