14:07 PM

Wis. Wing Cadet Submits Top Tuskegee Airmen Legacy Essay

Cadets from Civil Air Patrol's Wisconsin, Colorado and Virginia wings submitted the three winnings entries in the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service’s essay contest on “How Do the Tuskegee Airmen Still Influence the Air Force Today?” in honor of Black History Month.

For her first-place essay, Cadet Airman Morgan Quackenbush of the Wisconsin Wing’s La Crosse Composite Squadron will receive a “Pilot for a Day” trip that includes meeting Air Force pilots and taking an orientation flight, as well as receiving a flight logbook and Air Force promotional gear.

Cadet Capt. Caleb Han of the Colorado Wing’s Colorado Springs Cadet Squadron submitted the second-place essay. Cadet Airman Yashvir Sabharwal’s essay placed third; he belongs to the Virginia Wing's Prince William Composite Squadron.

Cadets’ squadron commanders chose the top essay from their unit, then forwarded it to the Air Force Recruiting Service’s Detachment 1, which judged the contest and received more than 150 submissions.. Essays were limited to 500 words. 

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAPl national commander and CEO, sent the cadets an email congratulating them, adding, "I am confident that you will continue your outstanding efforts as a Civil Air Patrol ambassador and role model in your community." 

Quackenbush, who joined CAP on Oct. 19, recounted the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy of service and achievement during World War II and wrote that “the Tuskegee Airmen story is still relevant and important.”

“If not for these brave young men and their sacrifices for America, our armed forces might not be as strong and motivated as they currently are,” she said.

“The Tuskegee Airmen showed the United States that African Americans were just as capable of fighting as white people. They helped strengthen the Air Force and helped increase the number of Americans fighting.

“Along with helping increase numbers, the Tuskegee Airmen helped motivate our Air Force. They showed that anyone can fight, even if a majority of people say it’s impossible and that it will never be allowed.”

The cadet added, “Along with helping desegregate the military, the Tuskegee Airmen also helped advance women’s rights by showing that artificial barriers were just that, artificial. This helped in giving women the chance to join the armed forces, be pilots, and be in combat. Because of this, the military has helped create great role models for both African Americans and women.

“They motivate our troops and even the rest of the nation by showing that everyone is capable, and that flying, fighting, and winning don’t depend on one’s skin color or gender,” Quackenbush concluded.

According to Han, a CAP member since September 2015, the Tuskegee “legacy is still evident in the Air Force of today. They did not only leave a legacy of statues, memorials and medals, but are remembered for introducing a new mindset to the world. They serve as a reminder to all airmen to view the boundaries set around them as challenges rather than their identity.”

Han cited President Harry S. Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 in July 1948 to desegregate the armed forces, saying that afterward “color was no longer something that defined our opportunities, but ... something that is a part of our ancestry and who we are.”

“The Tuskegee Airmen propelled the Unites States to advance as a nonsegregated country,” he wrote. “Their dream became our reality.”

He hailed them for having “persevered through the jeers and demoralizing comments from their Caucasian peers and superiors and kept their gaze on their true goal. They did not fight to fly. They did not fight for their oppressors. They fought for the future.”

“Their legacy still lives on in the United States Air Force,” Han said. “Their bravery and vision fuels the fire in the hearts of the armed services today.

Sabharwal, who joined CAP on Jan. 24, wrote that by breaking the color barrier in the military, the Tuskegee Airmen “started integration at a national scale and fought for equal opportunity and opportunity for the qualified.”

Today, more than seven decades later, “the power of excellence is overwhelming. It is always in demand, and nobody cares about its color,” Sabharwal said.

Nor has the Tuskegee Airmen’s mission stopped, he added. “As of today, the few hundred ‘Red Tails’ left are always looking for an opportunity to inspire younger generations. They still travel the country to share the ‘Four P’s: perceive, prepare, perform and persevere.”

In that way, “the Tuskegee Airmen still influence the Air Force by speaking and motivating our young people on not only career opportunities but also what it means to serve our country and help preserve the freedoms we enjoy,” he said.