MIAMI — History has established the appropriateness of honoring the Tuskegee Airmen as some of the greatest soldiers our nation has ever known. Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and their contribution to American history. Also, last week, , Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Eldridge F. Williams, 97, while possibly facing his final days, was honored by VITAS Healthcare, with a military bedside salute at the VITAS hospice inpatient unit at University of Miami Hospital. Among the attendees were Tuskegee Airmen Miami Chapter members, TAI Treasurer Albert E. Dotson, Sr., PhD, Rosa L. White, PhD, and VITAS Community Liaison Deborah Mizell, RN.

The salute was well-received by all, including Williams, whose appreciation was evident as he mustered the energy to say: “Thank you so much. It’s a grand way to go out.”

Williams, a documented original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) and veteran of the Korean War, dedicated more than 20 years to serving the U.S. Army Air Corps. A longtime Miami resident, Williams was born in 1917 and grew up picking cotton on plantations in Texas and Kansas. In addition to fighting for his country, he also fought for racial equality—a cause he’s battled strongly for since childhood. After retiring from the military, Williams served Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the U.S., where he held several roles, including Director of Desegregation.

The Tuskegee Airmen, also known as the Red Tails, fought in World War II and were the first African-American combat pilots in U.S. history. According to Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., there are approximately 200 documented members in their local chapters who are still living.