'Important we recognize our history': Village of Robbins honors local Tuskegee Airmen

ROBBINS, Ill. (WLS) -- Robbins, Illinois is the home of ten Tuskegee Airmen and Saturday those veterans were honored.

"It's very important we recognize our history," said Joann Rhodes, chairman of the RAIN READY Steering Committee.

Everything was segregated in World War II, so a new base was created in Tuskegee, Alabama to teach the Black pilots how to fly and prepare for war.

"The Tuskegee Airmen had an exemplary war record, mainly because they did not abandon the bombers. They never left the bombers," said Ken Rapier, president of Chicago "DODO" Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc.

There are just one of those airmen still alive in Chicago and about 12 others nationwide.

There are also just 400 other people alive who were part of the Tuskegee experience out of a team of about 15,000 people in World War II.

It's events like these in the Village of Robbins that aim to shed some light on who those pilots were and what they went through.

"Even though they had proven themselves as superior pilots, none of them were given the opportunity to use those superior pilot skills in the field of commercial aviation after World War II," Rapier said.

Now, the hope is to create a new path forward by honoring past generations with memorials, like the one in Robbins, and offering future generations different opportunities.

"We have heritage and new generation members in the 'DODO' chapter and our mission is to preserve and continue the tradition of the Tuskegee Airmen and make sure their legacy never becomes extinct," Rapier said.

Part of the way they are keeping their legacy going is by offering scholarships to high school seniors across Chicago, while also offering youth aviation flights each month to kids between ages 8 and 17.

Experiences like that make all the difference.

"I'm happy to see that we got a nice crowd," Rhodes said.
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