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Tuskegee Airman laid to rest in San Mateo

December 29, 2011 10:30:15 PM PST
Their numbers are dwindling and today there is one fewer. Services were held for Dr. Richard Caesar, one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American squadron that flew combat missions in World War II.

As family and friends gathered to honor Caesar, they used the same words to describe what the 93-year-old dentist and philanthropist was like.

"Very retiring type person," said James Hutchinson, M.D. "Very modest. Never bragged, never told you what all he was doing, but he was doing a lot of things."

Caesar did a lot, from becoming a dentist and running a practice for 40 years to supporting worthy causes including the YMCA of San Francisco. Caesar was also a life governor of the San Francisco Symphony, but it was his service in the U.S. Air Force as a Tuskegee Airman that truly shaped his life as one of the first African-Americans to fly combat aircraft.

In a video posted on YouTube, Caesar shared their oath.

"Tell you what to do, don't try to be an ace," said Caesar in the video. "That was our oath."

There are scarcely 100 Tuskegee Airmen still alive today. Some of them attended the service held for Caesar to honor him. Like Caesar, their military service shaped their future.

"The doors opened up for what we did in World War II," said Le Roy Gillead describing the GI Bill of Rights. "Double victory at home and abroad. An opportunity became available, and now they could go to school and do what Middle America could do, which they couldn't before."

The Tuskegee Airmen are leaving a double legacy: As patriotic Americans and as a generation of Americans who know it's important to mentor young people and support their community.

"You only live one life, and it goes fast," said airmen Leslie Williams. "Make the most of it if you can."

Caesar will now join what the Tuskegee Airmen call the Lonely Eagles. He will not be forgotten, nor will his legacy.


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