Excellent Post!WASHINGTON -- It’s still a battle. It’s still a fight. But for the surviving Tuskegee Airmen and other black World War II veterans who journeyed here to witness the second inauguration of President Barack Obama Monday, the struggle is one of love.
They wanted to see the nation’s first African-American commander-in-chief sworn in again, validating the choice America made four years ago, declaring it was no fluke, that someone like them really can rise to lead the country they had to struggle to serve.
"I never expected to live long enough to see a black president," said Stephen Sherman, a 92-year-old who served with the Army’s 308th Combat Engineers in both theaters of the war. He teared up just a little as he stood to roar out “God Bless America” before Obama spoke.
“It breaks my heart. I love my country," said Sherman, who was among about two dozen of his comrades in arms sitting just below the president, many in wheelchairs, on the west front of the Capitol to see Obama take his oath of office, as they did four years ago.
All around Sherman were Tuskegee Airman, members of the same African-American unit that was infamously subjected to experiments during the war. Near him were warriors who had to battle just to win an equal chance to die for their country.
LeRoy Battle, 91, a former navigator, bombardier and pilot from Harwood, Md., never saw action over the Pacific because he was locked in a struggle at home, getting arrested with other members of the 477th Bombardment Group trying to integrate an officers’ club in Indiana. It was known as the Tuskegee Mutiny.
“They pulled us out of our barracks at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. They said ‘We're going to hang you because you disobeyed a superior officer in a time of war,’” Battle recalled.“That's what I fought against.”
Sherman said he grew up in Akron, Colo., where he was the only black kid in his class and no one thought much about it. He was never segregated until he joined the Army.
“I couldn't understand, but I still went in and served my country because I love it,” he said.
Echoes of that broader fight resonated in Obama’s speech.“Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free,” the freshly sworn president said at one point.
“The words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream,” Obama also said.