As most Americans are very aware, last weekend marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks of 2001. The memorial in New York City was ready to open. The memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania was open to the public even though some work still needs to be completed on the grounds. The Pentagon memorial was dedicated in 2008.
Those are the "big" public memorials, the ones with physical sites where people can go to remember and reflect. Other kinds of memorials were established in memory of individuals who perished that day. In fact, it's probably safe to say that the majority of the victims' family members were intent on doing good while ensuring that their loved ones not be forgotten. Some started charities, some established scholarships, some donated memorial money to those who needed it more.
Melodie Homer was one woman who decided to give back in the face of unimaginable loss. The widow of LeRoy W. Homer, Jr., she was determined that her husband - who was First Officer on Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania - not be forgotten. She established the LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation to honor the pilot she had loved and lost.
What makes this foundation interesting is that it is totally focused on helping deserving young people meet their dream of becoming professional pilots or working in the field of aviation. The Foundation awards at least one flight school scholarship each year. To date, seven young men and six young women have received Foundation funds to help give them a leg-up toward aviation-based college studies by earning their pilots' licenses prior to college. This is especially beneficial if their goal is to get into one of the military academies because entry competition is so fierce.
What I also found intriguing about Mr. Homer's personal story was how it stacked up against the stories of a lot of the men who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen:
- Wanted to fly since he was a kid? Check
- Fascinated by airplanes? Check
- Soloed as a teenager? Check
- Joined the US Army Air Corps/US Air Force? Check
- Flew for the military during wartime? Check
- Married and had a family after serving? Check
- Worked in aviation after leaving the military? Check
To cap off all of those matching facts, Mr. Homer - who was black - was named (posthumously) an honorary Tuskegee Airman by Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Ironically, Mr. Homer would not have been able to meet his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot if not for the efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen. They knew they were pioneers and that they had to be the best that they could be, even if it meant dying for their country (as Mr. Homer ultimately did). The Airmen's dedication to duty and their performance during World War II helped lead to the desegregation of all branches of the U.S. military in 1948.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.