Pooler Elementary School students received a visit from a historical hero, Retired Tuskegee Airman, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend.
News 3’s Courtney Cole was there to hear his story.
Dozens of 4th and 5th graders eagerly filled their seats in the Pooler Elementary auditorium Tuesday morning—but this was no ordinary assembly.
Students were getting the chance to meet one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend.
The South Carolina native was escorted to the stage by his daughter Karen, and was happy to answer all their questions about his experience as a Red Tail of the 332nd Fighter Group in World War II.
The first thing they wanted to know was if he was ever afraid to fly—and he answered with a smile.
“[I was] too dumb to be afraid!”
The room filled with laughter, including that of Friend’s. Although he joked about being young and fearless, he says it only took him half of a year to learn how to fly and the rest is history…literally.
“…In fact, I had a pilot’s license when I went into the army, but they still made me go through their full program because their planes were bigger, their planes were more complex,” Friend told the students.
He went on to fly those complex planes on a grand total of 143 combat missions during World War II.
One of the planes was a P-51 D, affectionately named Bunny.
The adults were intrigued, pulling out their phones to capture history right before their eyes…students couldn’t believe what they were hearing, going on to ask how tough it was to stay focused.
“It’s hard to lose focus on a long mission. The reason is because you fly in formation and that means you’re flying close to someone else and someone else is flying closer to you—so you have to concentrate on keeping that position,” said Friend.
But he went on to say the most important position, despite the racial adversity he face, was defending his country.
“I don’t think I had much time to concentrate on that aspect. The only thing I wanted to do was win the war and protect this country.”