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Inauguration brings Tuskegee Airmen to Bolling

Tuskegee Airman Ezra Hill speaks with Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney McKinley Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tim Chacon)

Tuskegee Airman Ezra Hill speaks with Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney McKinley Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tim Chacon)

More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dan DeCook)

More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dan DeCook)

Maj. Gen. Larry Spencer (left), director of the Air Force Budget, and Maj. Gen. Bruce Green, deputy surgeon general, speak with Donald E. Elder, an original Tuskegee Airman Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dan DeCook)

Maj. Gen. Larry Spencer (left), director of the Air Force Budget, and Maj. Gen. Bruce Green, deputy surgeon general, speak with Donald E. Elder, an original Tuskegee Airman Jan. 20 at the Bolling Club on Bolling Air Force Base, D.C. More than 180 Tuskegee Airmen and their families gathered for a special breakfast before being bused downtown for the 2009 inaugural events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dan DeCook)

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. (AFPN) --  One-hundred and eighty-eight Tuskegee Airmen arrived at the Bolling Club here Jan. 20 for breakfast, music and conversation before attending the Presidential Inauguration.

"The event here was very humbling," said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. "It presented us a tremendous opportunity to remind everyone why we wear this uniform and defend the constitution: So, anyone in America can rise up and be what they want to be."

The Tuskegee Airmen entered the club and were seated by Airmen from the United States Air Force Honor Guard.

"Our job was to help ensure (the Tuskegee Airmen) found a seat and were comfortable," said Airman 1st Class Jon Van Deusen. "It's an honor to help out during the inauguration. Also, it's great to meet the Tuskegee Airmen, they were pioneers."

After the Tuskegee Airmen found their seats, they were served breakfast prepared by the 11th Services Division staff. The staff also provided 400 box lunches that later would be feasted upon during inauguration activities.

"We took over this project about a month ago," said John Robinette, 11th SVS director. "We're glad to help out with this event. We also assisted some of the Tuskegee Airmen with lodging arrangements for the inauguration."

As the Tuskegee Airmen enjoyed their meals, they listened to music played by the United States Air Force Band Strolling Strings, stationed at Bolling.

After breakfast, the 11th Security Forces members screened the Tuskeegee Airmen before they headed downtown for either the swearing in ceremony or inaugural parade.

"This is a big event," said Staff Sgt. Amy Lieth, 11th SFS. "Security Forces is glad to help out."

This wasn't the first visit to Bolling for some of the Tuskegee Airmen. They were here March 28, 2007, for a ceremony where the "Tuskegee Room" at the Bolling Club was dedicated.

For some Tuskegee Airmen, Bolling has even more memories. Donald E. Elder, an original Tuskegee Airman, flew into Bolling 60 years ago for another historic presidential inauguration.

"On Jan. 19, 1949, I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue during the parade for President Harry S. Truman," said Mr. Elder. "It was the first integrated parade. We flew into Bolling and stayed at Andrews Air Force Base (Md.) as we prepared for the inauguration."

Agency staffs throughout Bolling worked together to ensure that the Tuskegee Airmen and their families were well fed and ready to travel downtown to make the most of the inauguration day events.

In addition to support by Bolling personnel for the breakfast event, more than 400 Airmen from the Air Force District of Washington participated in the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.

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