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A Tuskegee Airman celebrates his 100th birthday with one more flight
Retired Col. Charles McGee stepped out of the small commercial jet and flashed a smile.
Then a thumbs-up.
McGee had returned on a round-trip flight Friday morning from Dover Air Force Base, where he served as co-pilot on one of two flights done especially for his birthday.
By the way he disembarked from the plane, it was hard to tell that McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, was turning 100.
Besides the lines on his face, there was little about McGee that suggested he could now be called a centenarian. He had a spring in his step and handled the questions from reporters without missing a beat.
And before he flew in the jet, he conducted his own preflight check. To heck with the 40-degree weather.
McGee could not identify the secret to a long life — "All I can say is it's one of life's blessings," he said — but his daughter had her own theory.
Every day, he wakes up with a purpose, Yvonne McGee said.
"We're just really, really blessed," she said.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman and a decorated veteran of three wars, flies a Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet with assistance from pilot Boni Caldeira during a round trip flight from Frederick, Maryland, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to help celebrate his 100th birthda (Associated Press/David Tulis)
McGee was a military man, Yvonne McGee said. So much of his purpose was spent dedicated to the Army Air Forces, and later the Air Force when it was established as a separate military branch. He flew 27 of 30 years as part of the service, which is unusual for airmen, she said.
McGee first flew in 1942, he said, when he decided to seek aviation opportunities. He worried he would be drafted and forced to stay on the ground during World War II, he said.
And then he fell in love with flying, he said. He still finds it "marvelous" every time he gets to fly.
"To get up in the air and look down and see the traffic and the ground below, to see the beautiful sky and sunshine above — amazing," he said.
It's a bug he passed on to his children, Yvonne McGee said. She has her pilot's license, although she does not currently fly. Her brother, Ronald, got more of the flying genes.
When McGee gets around airplanes, he acts like a child, his son said. He lights up.
"It takes him back to his youth," Ronald McGee said.
Ronald McGee flew in the Air Force like his father. The two flew the same type of plane in the Vietnam War, although Ronald McGee was part of the conflict later than his father.
The two flew together only once, Ronald McGee said. He was the pilot on a trip his father and sister took home from Israel. They had wanted to fly as pilot and co-pilot once, but his mother forbade it.
"She said, 'No, I'm not going to lose you both in the same flight,'" he said. "And I said, 'Well, we're actually both pretty good pilots.' And she took her glasses off, put them down and said, 'What did I say?'"
After Friday's flight, provided by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, there was a celebratory reception for McGee. People, including city of Frederick officials, other veterans and those who wanted to meet McGee came up to wish him a happy birthday and ask for a picture.
Ronald McGee was happy his father received the recognition because the Tuskegee Airmen did not get credit for much of their work when the unit of African-American military pilots was formed during World War II. Many wanted the Tuskegee Airmen to fail.
"There were so many firsts that they had that no one knew of, which really probably would have or helped change America sooner if made public at the time, but America wasn't ready," Ronald McGee said.
And because it was not talked about, McGee did not tell his children about it. He was a military man and tight-lipped, Ronald McGee said.
Andrew McKenna, a pilot with the Air Force Heritage Foundation, honored McGee with a low-level flyby in a P-51 Mustang, the same type of plane that McGee flew during his service.
It was an honor to fly ahead of McGee, McKenna said.
"He paved the path," he said. "Colonel McGee paved the path for all of us, for the nation."
©2019 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.