While running errands with Zydeco this past weekend, we stopped at the post office and waited in line to mail a package. We'd just left the orthopedist and Zydeco's arm was officially free and soaking up Vitamin D once again. Chatting with him in line, I noticed a much older, gray haired black gentleman standing in front of us. The band on the back of his baseball cap read "Redtails" and a memory was sparked in my brain. I just couldn't quite place the term. Then I read the back of the gentleman's sweatshirt. Under various pictures of old-time jet fighters with red tips was a phrase about "bringing them all home safely."
Then it hit me - Redtails. Tuskegee Airmen. History.
I studied the back of this man, judging his age to be about right for him to have been an Airmen circa World War II. As I was drumming up courage to ask a complete stranger about his life, the young woman behind us jumped right in and asked for me. She was in uniform - the standard Air Force Battle Uniform - and was so excited to hear him say, "Yes, I am a Tuskgekee Airman."
Zydeco immediately perked up and joined the conversation. He'd heard of Tuskegee, but didn't understand the significance of these Airmen. Mr. Erza Hill, Sr. was generous with his discussion and even offered to stand off to the side and chat with us and the young female airman after we'd all finished our post office business. We learned about his story - he was too young to serve during WWII, but was so inspired by the achievements of (then) Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. that he, too, entered the Air Force and trained at Tuskegee. He lead a distinguished career in his own right and was proud to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor with his Tuskegee peers.
The young airman, also African American, told of her inspiration to join the Air Force based on the groundbreaking work of the original Tuskegee men. Her joy and exuberance at meeting a "real" Airman was palpable. I gladly snapped several pictures of her with Mr. Hill.
Mr. Hill explained that, following his retirement, he eagerly traveled to share his story and that of the famed Airmen in order to educate youth. He even published a children's book recounting the establishment of the Tuskegee Airmen. Since he mentioned having copies with him, I was happy to get one for Zydeco. We were even able to snap a quick shot of them together.
We've always enjoyed and appreciated living in this history rich section of the United States. We've often visited the Historic Triangle areas and traveled just a few hours to tour and learn about Monticello, D.C., and the James River Plantations. I love enriching my children's educations with family tours and experiences - I just didn't realize I would accomplish this by simply running errands. Truthfully, more learning occurred for Zydeco in those twenty minutes spent in a dusty post office corner than in any tour, lecture or video presented at any historic venue.