EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American fliers in the U.S. military, lead to the integration of our armed forces. One East Texas man remembers the time, all too well. Now, he has been honored for his service and dedication.
It was not their typical ceremony. The Welcome Home Soldiers organization and Patriot Guard Riders lined the streets outside a Tyler church Wednesday night, not to welcome home a soldier, but thank one for his service.
"[A] big surprise," said Captain Sam Garrison of Tyler. "The biggest surprise in my lifetime."
He says he will never forget his time as a Tuskegee Airmen. He was just 19 years old and a student at UCLA when the U.S. military decided to form an all black division of the army during World War II.
"I went to downtown L.A. and talked to this major and he said I needed a letter from my mother," explained Garrison. "Well, I said, "My mother is down in Louisiana."
He said it took some time, but he finally got that letter and almost immediatly enlisted in the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. From 1941 through 1946, 924 pilots graduated at TAAF. Many have since passed, but today, Garrison knows his service will not be forgotten.
"When I saw all those flags and people out there, that really amazed me," said Garrison.