Inauguration Has Special Meaning for Airmen

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By Donathan Prater
Published: January 17, 2009

DOTHAN, Ala.—As he approaches one of the most momentous moments in American history, President-elect Barack Obama said he is standing on the shoulders of trailblazers who preceded him - men like the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Those were strong shoulders. They had to be to bear the weight of a society that once saw skin color as a measuring stick of intelligence.

They belonged to men like Lt. Col. (Ret.) Herbert E. Carter, 89, an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen, known more formally as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Carter, a Tuskegee resident who served 27 years in the Army Air Corps and later the U.S. Air Force, trained at Tuskegee’s Moton Field from January through July 1942.

While some of Carter’s comrades will have an honored position at Obama’s inaugural in Washington Tuesday, he watch the swearing in ceremonies at his Tuskegee residence with his wife, Mildred, and son, Herbert Jr.

“I’ll be watching the inauguration with interest and edification, as I’m sure many other people across the country will be,” Carter said.

It has been a memorable few months for the airmen. In October, they were honored with the formal dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. And now, they will see Obama mark a monumental political milestone.

But Carter said there are obstacles yet to overcome.

Carter said education and perseverance helped Obama ascend to the highest political office in the country and continue to be important for today’s generation in whatever path they choose in life.

“Obama’s election simply verifies what we understood on our way to becoming Tuskegee Airmen, and that is that life and opportunity are what you make of them,” Carter said. “If you prepare yourself with a solid education now, when the opportunity does come, you’ll be able to step right into it and contribute positively to history.”

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