Funeral held for WWII Tuskegee Airman

March 26, 2012 3:34:27 PM PDT
Selwyn Wilson was a Tuskegee Airman. He blazed trails in the US military and also in the Chicago area.

Monday, he was remembered as a war hero and a father as he was laid to rest.

When Selwyn Wilson set a goal, he achieved it. During World War II, he became a tail-gunner with the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation's first black military pilots. When he was critically injured in a crash and was given a bad prognosis, he made a remarkable recovery.

And, Wilson's became one of the first African American families to live in Lombard, in a home he mostly built himself. Wilson died there at the age of 86.

Wilson's funeral was held Monday. It was a time for his family to reflect on Wilson's determination to overcome the odds in his life.

"If you put your mind to something, you can do it. There may be roadblocks, there may be obstacles, but there's always a way to get something done," said son Mark Wilson.

Wilson says it was painful for his father to talk about what happened during World War II. In 1945, Selwyn Wilson was the only survivor of a plane crash and was burned over 75 percent of his body.

He lost his right leg above the knee, the use of his right hand, and his right ear.

"He came to grips with his injuries, because doctors told him he would never walk again," Mark Wilson said. "They told him he would never have children. They told him he probably wouldn't survive much longer."

But skin grafts and a prosthetic leg helped him recover.

After the war, Selwyn Wilson moved his family to Lombard, where he fought another battle.

"It was Lombard, it was the 1950s, and we really weren't well accepted at that time," said Mark Wilson. "There was a cross burned on the lawn, the mailbox was blown up, and my dad went out and bought a .30-30 rifle. Just in case."

Wilson stayed in that house and over the years grew to appreciate his journey, which started out making history as a Tuskegee Airman.

Wilson is survived by four children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.