President Donald Trump recognized Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, one of the historically black Tuskegee Airmen, during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Trump introduced McGee, who turned 100-years-old in December. Trump credited McGee for both his combat service and his efforts in support of civil rights in America.
President Trump introduces Iain Lanphier, a 13-year-old who aspires to join the U.S. Space Force, and his 100-year-old great-grandfather Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman https://t.co/C3Wm2ERpwP pic.twitter.com/YAnjd7KTPS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 5, 2020
Trump noted he recently signed a bill promoting McGee from the rank of colonel to that of brigadier general. Trump said he pinned the stars of a general onto McGee’s shoulders just before the Tuesday address, making the promotion official.
“General McGee, our nation salutes you,” Trump said. “Thank you sir.”
McGee’s introduction followed remarks Trump made about the newly formed Space Force military branch. Trump touted the new branch and proceeded to recognize McGee’s 13-year-old great-grandson Iain Lanphier for his aspirations to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy and then to join the new military branch.
“But sitting behind Iain tonight is his greatest hero of them all, Charles McGee, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio one century ago,” Trump said. “Charles is one of the last surviving Tuskegee airmen, the first black fighter pilots. And he also happens to be Iain’s great grandfather.”
Trump noted McGee’s service having flown over 130 combat missions throughout World War II. McGee continued to serve in the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and flew a total of 409 combat missions.
“He came back home to a country still struggling with for civil rights, and he went on to serve America in Korea and Vietnam,” Trump said.
The U.S. Air Force released a video congratulating McGee for his promotion, which they released shortly after Trump’s remarks.
The Air Force video shows an interview of McGee, in which the veteran described the trials of serving his country during a period of segregation in the military.
“This was a double victory activity for black Americans, fighting against Hitler in Europe and also fighting against racism here at home,” McGee said, recalling an article by the Pittsburgh Courier that praised the service of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Don’t let the circumstances be an excuse for not achieving,” McGee continued. “We could have easily said ‘they don’t like me, they don’t want me’ and go off into the corner with our head bowed. That’s not the American way.”
McGee has received other national recognition in recent weeks. On Sunday, he was among four veterans over the age of 100 who participated in the Super Bowl coin toss as the NFL finished its hundredth season. McGee himself performed the coin toss, while joined by Staff Sgt. Odón Sanchez Cardenas, Lt. Col. Samuel Lombardo, and Cpl. Sidney Walton.