BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Three legendary pilots were back in the area last week to speak and answer questions about their adventure during World War II.
Tuskegee Airmen Charles “Doc’’ Holiday, Daniel Keel and Hiram E. Mann, all fighter pilots, attended a presentation at the Rise Above Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Traveling Exhibit. The exhibit was at Campbell Middle School April 3-4.
“The event was a tremendous success. The Airmen spoke one on one with the students. They put a face on their story and told the kids how they overcame adversity to succeed,” said Percy Williamson, director of Daytona Beach’s Leisure Services Department.
Craig Zablo, principal of Campbell Middle, added, “You often hear about heroes, but these are real heroes. It was good to have these real American heroes. It was a pleasure for our students, parents and faculty to meet them.
This year alone we have had some of our students meet the governor and others – Olympic gold medalists, but this was more exciting for them.’’
Around 900 people visited the exhibit with about 850 being schoolchildren.
“That was the purpose of the event, to get as many children as possible out.
The children got to meet the Airmen, got autographs and dog tags stating they were a part of the exhibit. We also want to thank the Volusia County school district and Campbell Middle School for allowing us to bring this exhibit to our community,” said Williamson.
Those children who attended the exhibit enjoyed the experience.
“It was an awesome experience to see living history right in front of you. I also got met one of the pilots, Mr. Holiday, and got to shake his hand,” said 15-year old eighth-grader Roberta VeraCruz.
Jonathan Dunbar, a 13-year-old in the seventh grade, echoed, “It was an awesome experience to see these men that served us during wartime. They did their best and gave their all in service of their country. They also made history.”
Airmen at Balloon & Sky Festival too
Daytona wasn’t the only stop for these heroes. They also were on hand at the Balloon & Sky Festival at the New Smyrna Beach Airport on April 5-6, where their famous Red Tail P51 Mustang aircraft was on display.
“I liked the planes and I learned that they were and are Black pilots and not all pilots are White,” said Messiah Brown, 5. He had attended the festival in New Smyrna with his family.
The City of Daytona Beach, The City of New Smyrna Beach, Pepsi Bottling Company, Vistas Innovative Hospice Care, the Mary McLeod Bethune Legacy Preservation Institute, Inc., and the Courtyard Marriott Inc. were sponsors of the event.