Herbert Carter and Oscar Gadson trained to be a part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in the 1940s in segregated Alabama and never thought they would see the day when they would be the guests of honor in the governor's office at the Alabama Capitol.
Carter, a retired lieutenant colonel, and Gadson sat on each side of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley as he signed a proclamation Friday honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.
Bentley praised the airmen as he signed the proclamation, saying the unit of black fighter pilots fought on several fronts. "You fought not only the enemy across the sea, but you had to fight the enemy of racism in this country," Bentley told Carter and Gadson.
"Not only did you have to be good pilots you had to be the best."
Gadson said he never dreamed he would be honored by Alabama's governor. "It would have never crossed my mind that I would someday be in the governor's office," Gadson said.
Bentley signed the proclamation in a ceremony in his office on the same day the movie "Red Tails" about the World War II heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen opened nationwide.
The 94-year-old Carter, who flew 77 combat missions, said he has seen the George Lucas produced movie and thought it was "outstanding." "It does an excellent job showing what life was like among the men," Carter said. "It showed the moments of joy, disappointment and sadness."
Gadson, 91, said he has not yet seen the film, but plans to see it soon.
Bentley said he has not yet seen the movie, but is looking forward to watching it.
The University of Alabama football team watched an early screening of the movie before defeating LSU to win the national championship.
"I have absolute respect for what they did for America," Bentley said of the airmen. He said he believes the airmen helped inspire the Civil Rights Movement and changed the attitude of Americans toward race.
Bentley said the airmen are remembered by modern day Alabama fighter pilots.
The Alabama Air National Guard's 187th Fighter Wing has two F-16 fighters with red tails in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. "These are true American heroes," the governor said.