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Black History Month culminates with Tuskegee Airman at Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Almost 250 men and women of Vandenberg gathered in honor of the conclusion of Black History Month at the Pacific Coast Club here during a luncheon, Feb. 28. 

Chief Master Sgt. Retired Richard T. Lee, Jr. was the guest speaker of the event, where "From Slavery to Freedom: Celebrating Africans in Americas" was the theme. 

Chief Lee was a Tuskegee Airmen who completed cadet and pilot training at Tuskegee Army Airfield in January 1944 and retired after 26 years of service in November 1969. 

"It is the perfect time to reflect upon our history and to pay tribute to those pioneers who paved the way for us," said Chief Lee. "The Air Force member today is judged by his ability and not by the color of his skin. 

"Such was not the case when I enlisted in the Army in 1943."
The Chief's first experience with abject segregation was when he entered the military and was sent to Keeler Field, Miss. 

"Everything was separate, even the water fountains were marked white and colored," the Chief said. 

He continued to talk about the struggles and how far we have come today in the struggle of equality. 

"And despite the imperfections, I am proud to be an American," he added. 

Along with the Chief's words, performances by the African Dance Ensemble Company and student's from Crestview and Los Padres Elementary Schools read their "Black History Month" essays. 

The students were given an assignment to write a persuasive essay to the postal service on who should be represented on a stamp for their contributions to history. The first, second and third place finishers read their essays at the luncheon. 

"It was very humbling to hear Chief Lee talk," said Monica Chisolm, President of the African-American Association. "His spirit and the spirit of the children really made it a rewarding day." 

The association had many events throughout the month that included the a movie, "Tuskeegee Airmen", at the base theatre, Black History Month assembly at Crestview Elementary School, and the "Taste of Soul" event at the base commissary. All the events were a great success and ended with the Black History Month Luncheon. 

"This was truly and event for all of us," said Colonel Weinstein, who finished his duties as 30th Space Wing commander March 5. "It's through diversity that makes us the strongest country in the world."