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Tuskegee University honored military veterans during a Veterans Day Convocation held on Sunday, Nov. 11 in the University Chapel. The event included speaker Dr. Bernard C. Watson, a Korean War veteran, distinguished educator, civic leader and civil rights champion.
The program also included a special screening of the 55-minute documentary film, “Veterans of Color,” –– released in 2012 to preserve the stories of African-American war veterans. Watson served as the film’s executive producer, and during his convocation remarks, he emphasized the role Tuskegee University and the Tuskegee Airmen have played in history.
“We have a long history, and it’s important for you to not only know it, but your children and their grandchildren to know about it as well,” said Watson. “What happened here at Tuskegee University changed the armed forces of the United States.”
“Black pilots flew B-39, B-40, B-47 and B-51 Mustangs,” he continued. “The Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 bomber escort missions. They shot down 111 enemy aircrafts, destroyed 150 more on the ground, and never lost a bomber that they escorted.”
Watson enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a basic airman in 1951 and was discharged as a first lieutenant in 1954. His discharge, however, was just the beginning of his public service. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the National Council on Education Professions Development. He was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the National Council Educational Research. And, in 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Also present for Sunday’s convocation was Maxwell Air Force Base’s Air University commander and president, Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, who is the first African-American to serve in that position.
“I’m truly humbled to be here today. I’m before you because we stand on hollowed grounds –– Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, is the reason that I, as an African-American lieutenant general in the United States Air Force, am able to speak with you today,” explained Cotton.
“On behalf of myself and others, I’m more than ever appreciative of those who have come before me and have allowed me to stand on their broad shoulders –– right here, from Moton Field and beyond, I’d like to say thank you,” he added.
The convocation also featured patriotic songs performed by the Tuskegee University Golden Voices Concert Choir; and participation by and recognition of Tuskegee’s Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC cadets.
Please view the video below which includes Watson’s entire convocation address.
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