Today has been a bad day for veterans, as we head into the Veterans’ Day weekend.
James L Stone died today. He was a Medal Of Honor recipient, for actions during the Korean War. As a Lieutenant, he led 48 men against almost 800 Chinese, was wounded 3 times but remained in command. When he saw the situation was hopeless, he sent those who could walk back from the fighting, and went into captivity with the remaining wounded soldiers. He was released just before the Armistice, and went on to serve in Vietnam, achieving the rank of Colonel. With Colonel Stone’s, we are left with 80 living recipients of this nation’s highest award for military service.
Herbert Carter, one of the founding Tuskegee Airmen, also died late yesterday. He and his fellow African-American aviation pioneers’ tale was told in the recent movie “Red Tails”. From the AP: “The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators in the U.S. military. During World War II they were trained as a segregated unit in central Alabama at Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University. Carter was in the first group that trained for the 99th Fighter Squadron. They were prohibited from fighting alongside white counterparts and faced severe prejudice, yet became one of World War II’s most respected fighter squadrons. Carter flew 77 missions and crashed landed only once.” The 99th and 332nd Squadrons, called the “Red Tails” for the bright red vertical tails on their P-51s, never lost a bomber to enemy fighter opposition.
Godspeed, gentlemen. Rest easy. To paraphrase the poet, “When these men got to Heaven, To St. Peter they did tell/”Two more veterans reporting, sir. We’ve served our time in Hell.”