WASHINGTON -- The Air Force hosted one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and his family March 16 during a tour of the Pentagon.
Retired Lt. Col. Walter McCreary, his daughter Stephanie Lynch and grandson Nicholas Lynch were given a tour of the Air Force Art Gallery, the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial and the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit in the Pentagon.
McCreary, who is 94, also met with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who presented him with a flag that was flown over the Pentagon to commemorate his visit.
A World War II aerial combat veteran with 89 missions in the European theater, he spent time as a prisoner of war in Germany after his P-51 Mustang was hit by anti-aircraft fire that destroyed its radiator over the skies of Bucharest, Romania.
McCreary recalled coming to the Pentagon while on active duty in the 1950s when he flew courier missions to deliver classified messages for the then Air Force Security Services from Kelly Air Force Base, Texas.
"I would land at Bolling Air Force Base, take a water taxi to the Pentagon, deliver information, take a water taxi back to Bolling and fly back to San Antonio," he said. "It wasn't as busy back then and it seems there is a lot more hustle and bustle going on today."
The historical displays in the building were impressive, McCreary said. He said he wished more young people could see them because he doesn't believe they understand military history.
"This is something I couldn't have done 50 years ago because I would not have been received in this way," he added.
The challenge of racial barriers was something he and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen had to face in the segregated landscape of the then Army Air Forces but it was a challenge he and his fellow Airmen undertook.
"As a cadet, we won the battle and were accepted as a cadet," McCreary said. "Racial barriers were the main stumbling block because you never got a chance to prove your ability both educationally and physically because of segregation. You always stayed on 'the other side of the track'."
McCreary was able to break down some of the racial barriers he and his fellow Airmen faced by focusing on his goal of flying. This must be the attitude of young Airmen today, he said.
"If you have a goal in your life continue with it regardless of the trials and tribulations and the setbacks," he said. "Prove yourself to be successful."