Tuskegee Airman takes part in Freedom Celebration

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen pilots took part in the Freedom Celebration.

Retired Colonel Charles McGee attended the University of Illinois for two years before serving in World War II as one of the first African American fighter pilots.

“It all begins with folks telling you what you can’t do,” McGee said. “But then, they ask you what you’re able to do once given the opportunity.”

By the end of his career in the Air Force, McGee would log more than 6,000 hours of flying, with more than 1,100 of those in combat. He served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

McGee’s courage has inspired many, including his own family.

“I know people say everyone’s hero is their father,” youngest daughter Yvonne McGee said. “This couldn’t be more true.”

His daughter described him as one of the most humble people she knows.

“We didn’t even know his special history growing up,” Yvonne said. “They didn’t really organize to become the Tuskegee Airmen until 1972, when they realized this history is going to get lost because nobody else is telling it.”

The airmen blazed a path into history books.

“It’s important to know where you’re coming from, where you’ve been,” the colonel said. “A lot of it, you don’t need to repeat, but you need to be aware of it.”

“Had they not been as successful as they were, this whole country would be different,” Yvonne said.

McGee, who now lives in Bethesda, Maryland, has completed more than 400 combat missions. On July 3rd, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced legislation to authorize McGee’s honorary promotion to Brigadier General.

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