Oldest living Tuskegee Airman is finally honored

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GEORGIA – America’s oldest Tuskegee airman has finally been honored seven decades after he fought in World War II.

Brew Graham, 97, who lives in Riverdale, Georgia, has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest military decoration bestowed by the president in the name of Congress.

Graham has remained under the radar for decades and he’s been omitted from various recognitions, including the 2007 Gold Medal-honoring ceremony of the Tuskegee Airmen, held by then-President George W. Bush.

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That changed though, with the release of Red Tails earlier this year, which prompted his wife to contact producers for recognition of her ailing husband’s combat service.

“My husband Brew Graham is a Tuskegee Airman with the 99th fighter squadron and is believed to be the oldest living one, He is 97 years old. No one has bother to get in touch with him. We live in Riverdale Ga. you have our e-mail address. He has a hearing problem so he does not talk on the phone (only in person) Why is he being ignored?” Mrs. Graham wrote to LucasFilms , which released the hit film.

In response, LucasFilms forwarded her email to military officials and members of the Atlanta chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., who verified that Mr. Graham was a documented original Tuskegee Airman, in active service during the daring period of the 99th deployment for overseas duty in April 1943.

This week, Graham received a three-inch bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal from Congressman David Scott, issued collectively to the Tuskegee Airmen five years ago by President Bush. It is the same replica presented to some 300 surviving Airmen who were present at the ceremony. The original medal remains permanently housed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Ironically, Graham never went to see Red Tails on the big screen. However, LucasFilms delivered a special surprise for him last week: a personal copy of the movie on DVD, along with posters for the film.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American pilots who fought in World War II. Yet they were still subjected to racism and segregation both within and outside the military.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti