Tuskegee Airmen honored alas with Congressional Gold Medal from Congressman David Scott
RIVERDALE, GA. – Re-siding quietly within Riverdale, Brew Graham somehow was omitted from various recognitions including the 2007 Congressional Gold Medal ceremony of the Tuskegee Airmen, by then President George Bush. Among the oldest surviving members of the famed African American military aviation unit, which began as a World-War II experiment intended for failure — Graham was alas honored by Congressman David Scott with a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal Aug. 16, at his home.
For years, Graham remained low to the world’s radar, until release of the popular “Redtails,” movie earlier this year in January, which compelled his wife Evelyn to appeal to producers for recognition of the ailing Airman’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 bothered 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 Lucas Films.
It was then verified that Graham was a documented original Tuskegee Airman, in active service during the daring period of the 99th deployment for overseas duty in April 1943. Born in Mississippi, he worked as a mechanic and flew planes to test their mechanical worthiness. Graham’s friends advised reporters that he learned to fly when the white pilots didn’t trust his work.
With more than six decades elapsed since his World War II mission, Graham –silent for the most part, but elated— accepted the three-inch bronze replica from Congressman Scott, who sat cozily between Graham and his wife.
“This is in recognition of the great appreciation of all citizens for your struggles,” Scott said, referring to the challenges of the war abroad, and the battle for racial equality Airmen endured when they returned to the United States.
Subjected to the harsh restrictions of Jim Crow policies, the Tuskegee Airmen served in segregated units, under the authority of white commanders. Their bravery however dispelled pervasive beliefs of the era that Negroes were incapable of aviation. The Airmen valiantly fought against Nazi units, saving thousands of their white counterparts.
Encircled by news media, Graham softly whispered, “Thank you,” and that he wished more of his buddies from the war years were still alive.
Graham’s replica is the same as the replica presented by President George W. Bush to some 300 surviving Airmen who were present at the ceremony. The original medal is permanently housed at the Smithsonian in D.C. It is the highest civilian award
Ironically, though the story of his heroism has now been shared with the nation, Graham never saw“ Redtails” in theatres. A hearing impediment, and backlogged schedules at the VA clinic, inhibited him watching his own story on the big screen. Lucas Films however delivered a special surprise to him: a personal copy of the movie on DVD, along with posters.