One of the few living Tuskegee Airmen was recognized Thursday at MacDill Air Force Base.
Retired Lt. Col. George Hardy was part of the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron that flew 21 combat missions over Germany in the final two months before V-E Day.
“The thing is, we wanted to fly.” says Hardy, “And we did what was necessary to fly.”
But Lt. Col. Hardy says that was only half the fight. There was still the fight for equal rights.
“Like we went overseas and flew over there and came back and nothing in the States had changed," he said.
Even when things did change and the military was integrated, Hardy says it took years before he felt accepted.
These days he looks at many of the changes in the African-American community and is left disappointed by the progress.
“It's almost frightening at times.” Hardy says, “The fact that generations are growing up and not taking advantage of the opportunities. Because opportunities exist. It's just a matter of preparing yourself for it.”
Nevertheless, the 90-year-old veteran continues to tell his story to anyone who will listen as a tribute to those fellow airmen who gave their all for freedom and equality.
“I look back yes, it was all worth it," he said. "We paid a price, but it was a price we'd probably been glad to pay."