Willie Rogers, the oldest surviving member of the original Tuskegee Airmen, recently died in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was 101-years-old.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, on Friday, Rogers died of complications from a previous stroke.
Rogers was drafted in 1942 to be part of the first all-Black aviation squadron and worked in logistics and administration during WWII. But his work was so secretive that his family members revealed they didn’t know until recently that Rogers was part of the squadron, CBS News noted. Rogers also served with the Red Tail Angels.
Rogers definitely sacrificed for his country. In 1943, he was shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers during a mission in Italy. He spent three months recuperating in a London hospital before returning to battle.
After the war, Rogers opened up his own radio and appliance store in St Petersburg and lived there for the past 50 years. As of recently, he lived in a senior apartment complex in downtown St. Petersburg, and walked the short distance every Sunday to services at historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Tampa Bay Times wrote.
In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Rogers and the other 299 surviving Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.
RIP, Willie Rogers, and thank you.