Tuskegee Airmen Celebrate Congressional Honor with
By Pamela Wilson
A small crowd gathered at Hartsfield-Jackson’s gate T-7 on the morning of March 29 to bid a warm sendoff to some legendary war heroes. The honorees were eight of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen, on their way to Washington, D.C to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor many called “long overdue.”
Officials of Hartsfield-Jackson, and Delta-Air Lines, who provided the air transport for the Airmen, organized the sendoff event – a prelude to their audience with President Bush.
“We are pleased to honor these distinguished Americans for all they have done for the field of aviation and for this nation,” said Dan Molloy, director of Planning and Development at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Airmen, an all-black combat bomber unit, performed bravely in World War II. They reportedly had a perfect combat record, losing no bombers to enemy forces during World War II.
“We dared not fail," said retired Lt. Col. Charles W. Dryden, of the training program that started out as an experiment. “Then we would give evidence to the naysayers who said we couldn't do it.”
Dryden, who authored A-TRAIN: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and who was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998, spoke on behalf of his comrades, living and deceased. The 86-year-old Atlanta resident was also careful to acknowledge all of the ground support persons and families who had contributed to their success.
Many of those family members were at the gate, including two of Dryden’s
biggest fans – his wife Marymal and son Eric. They had known the war
hero as husband and father. As a young child, Eric did not fully realize
the magnitude of his father’s achievement. “Dad was always a
humble man. He didn’t talk a lot about the air combat days,”
But Eric became more aware of his father’s service as a teen when a crowd waited to hear him speak at a Black History program. “They were really excited to see him; I began to realize the significance of his military service.”
Marymal, was a student at Spelman College when she met the war veteran. “We were in awe of the Tuskegee Airmen,” she says. “They were heroes, the best and the brightest, and larger than life.” Now she is his constant companion as they make the rounds to special events.
© 2007 Hartsfield-Jackson News. A Publication from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. All rights reserved.
Lt. Col. Charles W. Dryden