Vice Mayor for the city of Sarasota, Willie Shaw, shared with us Legacy of Valor's hope for this week. The campaign kick started veterans tribute week with a Red Tail Squadron ceremony presented by Senior Friendship Centers.
“Throughout this week, veterans from the particular area and those who have come into this area are able to come together, tell their story, relieve themselves of many of their anxieties and frustrations that they've carried for many years at one place and at one time,” said Shaw.
Legacy of Valor is a campaign that raises awareness about various veterans' programs, community events, and contributions to the community with a primary focus on honoring and supporting our veterans and their families.
Monday afternoon, at Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, they honored the Tuskegee airmen, who were segregated based on the color of their skin. We had the honor of sitting down with their keynote speaker, retired Lieutenant Colonel George Hardy, who shared his story.
“The period from 1948-1953 was, I call, the integrating part, and that's the part that was tough during those years. Twice, I was at a commander who didn't want me in his outfit,” said Hardy.
Lieutenant Colonel Hardy was just 19 years old when he joined the United States Army Air Corp. in April of 1945. He fought as a pilot in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. However, he had more struggles than most of us can imagine being a black man in the service.
“I heard this voice say, 'Hardy, get down out of the airplane,' and I thought, 'who's calling me like that.' I look out the window; it was my squadron commander. So I got down, and he notified me I wasn't going on that mission and replaced me right then and there,” said Hardy.
Lieutenant Colonel Hardy, along with all the black veterans who fought in spite of opposition from fellow Americans, came together today to celebrate the history they made, and are grateful for how far we have come as a country.
“When I look back as to where we were in World War II and where we are today, and I look around and see the number of black generals and admirals in the service. It was a good price to pay, and we're glad we paid it.