John talked about the Tuskegees—about his experience as a student pilot, the abrupt violence of aerial combat, and the phony logic of a segregated air force. Herb talked about the bomber war—about the physical ache after nine hours at the wheel of a lumbering aircraft and the shock of seeing his group’s executive officer sweep the metal nameplates of a lost crew from the ready board into the trash.
Herb talked about their different homecomings in 1945, about meeting John all those years later, and piecing together their joint past. Then Herb put up the photo of Miss Pitchell’s class. The Picture never misses.
Getting to know John and hearing about the Tuskegees’ war opened his eyes, Herb said. “He gave me a real education. I’m an honorary member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and I consider it a great honor.
“In all those missions, I was never under attack,” Herb told them. “If it weren’t for men like John Leahr, I wouldn’t be here. So that’s one reason I like John Leahr. Actually that’s the main reason I like John Leahr.” They hugged. The audience roared approval.
One arm around John, Herb said that the two airmen had one request: “Don’t forget us.”