Of the 355 Tuskegee Airmen who served as single-engine combat pilots during WW II, only 12 were alive as of the end of May this year.
One of them is Lt. Col. Harry Stewart. He flew 43 combat missions with the 332nd Fighter Group known as the Red Tails. On Easter Sunday 1945, he shot down 3 long-nosed Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, the best fighters in the German Luftwaffe. For this feat, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He was born on July 4, 1924, and thus turns 95 today.
A few days ago, he wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “A Tuskegee Airman Turns 95”.
I have read it over and over because his story is compelling and also because of the last paragraph. It reads:
“July 4 is my birthday, but I celebrate my country’s birthday too. America was not perfect in the 1940s and is not perfect today, yet I fought for it then and would do so again.”
Yes, America is worth fighting for. It has not always been kind to people of my color but the country stands for something a lot greater than racism and bigotry and that is what drove Lt. Col. Stewart in spite of Jim Crow to enlist and fight for this great nation.
America does not always fulfill its promise of equality for all men but it strives. This attempt at liberty and equality of justice is worth fighting for.
Some may fight for this great nation in the trenches of war. Others may do so in the air or on the seas. Yet more fight at home for those in the projects, in VA hospitals, soup kitchens, hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages. Some fight for those who the system has forgotten while others fight to keep the status quo.
In all we do, we fight to keep this nation great and though we may not always agree, a deep love for what this country stands for should unite all of us.
So on this day, even as I say Happy 243rd to this our United States of America, I also say Happy 95th birthday to a great American Lt. Col Harry Stewart! He is right. This nation may not be perfect but it is worth fighting for!
Dr. Nana Dadzie Ghansah is an anesthesiologist who practices in Lexington, Kentucky