DETROIT (WXYZ) — The crowd outside the Coleman Young Municipal Airport stood on their feet saluting the four bronze statues. The statues standing at about 6-feet-tall is an actual rendition of four airmen that touched down in 1942.
Friends of Detroit City Airport hosted the dedication Monday afternoon to honor the brave African American pilots and servicemen who served during World War II.
“We want to make sure that the legacy of the Tuskegee airmen is recognized and what better way than Memorial Day," says Miguel Thornton. He's the president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., Detroit chapter.
Thornton says the airmen were originally known as the "Redtails."
“Because in WW2 they painted the red tails on the airplanes to identify what squadron and section they came from," Thornton adds.
Some say why not honor these men at an airport named after one of their own. Detroit's first African American mayor and Coleman Alexander Young.
“It’s a great legacy. What a way to recognize his service here at the airport," said Col. Rajesh Kothari.
Young served as a second lieutenant and bombardier in the war.
“He was an officer and they treated him as less than because of the color of his skin," said Coleman Young II. Young's son and former state senator.
Young says that race and discrimination did not stop his father or any of the brave airmen from defending their country.
“The fact that they were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for the freedoms that we have," Young adds.
Each statue cost about $25,000. The private project with some assistance from the city is about 3 years in the making. A dedication some say is long overdue. One mother says it's perfect timing for her 10-year-old son Maciah.
“I wanted him to understand that it’s not just mom and dad served and its people who look like him that served and it was not always easy," said Marcyl Pesti.
The memorial complete, there is an opportunity for the community to include their name to the bottom of the memorial through donations to the airport's community development corporation.
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