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Columbus Georgia, March 21 - 23 Thunder In The Valley Air Show

This was the Redtail's first visit to Columbus, only about 70 miles east of Tuskegee Alabama, and everyone there knew the significance of the symbolic red tail. The weather was great for both Friday and Saturdays shows. The Atlanta Chapter had a tent along with our sponsor for the show, Knology, a phone and internet company. The crowds went wild for the Tuskegee Airmen and the Redtailed Mustang.

The best story of Columbus is told by Hugh Oldham the airshow announcer and here it is.

Doug Rozendaal

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Thunder in the Valley
By Hugh Oldham

The show opened during the early days of the Iraq war. NBC News had sent a satellite truck and crew to cover the event. They were making live feeds back into the national network from this location, adjacent to Fort Benning, home of the 3(superscript: rd) Brigade of the 3(superscript: rd) Infantry. The 3rd Brigade was deployed to Kuwait, advancing into Iraq. Emotions were high.

During the show, Doug had flown the CAF Minnesota Wing's P-51C "Tuskegee Airmen" in a salute to the Tuskegee Airman. Several original Tuskegee pilots were present and after the demo Doug had trooped the crowd line in a convertible with three of the black pilots alongside him. The crowd response, in this Deep South location, was astounding, gratifying.

Saturday evening, the show's first day had been successfully concluded. The normal hassles of an early season show had been endured, the crowd was headed home and Jane and I were headed out the gate, Doug motioned us over to the satellite truck.

Doug introduced us to Vivian Glover, the NBC News producer supervising the network feeds.

Ms Glover asked if I was the one narrating the Tuskegee P-51 demonstration. I replied that Doug had written the powerful script and I was the one that delivered it. What she said next humbled me, moved me to tears.

This beautiful lady, who had grown up in Orangeburg, SC during a period of bitter civil right's demonstrations. A period of my state's history when SC State Troopers opened fire on un-armed black SC State College students, killing three, in what is now called the "Orangeburg Massacre." A period, 25 years after the Tuskegee Airman had been ostracized by the United States Army Air Force, a young black girl in South Carolina was still a disenfranchised, a third-class citizen who had to use the back door and the third restroom.

This woman looked me in the eye and said, "For the first time in my fifty years I feel like an American, not an African-American."

After regaining my composure, I was able to tell Vivian the new Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, had officially apologized for the state's actions on that night in 1968 and that plans were afoot to further the healing process.

But for thousands of Americans standing on that hot asphalt this beautiful spring day in Columbus Georgia, a lot of healing had taken place.

Who would have ever believed the power of a P-51C?

Who would have ever imagined the power of an airshow!

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