Greenwood Village City Councilman Jerry Presley was honored for his contributions to the Tuskegee Airmen Denver Chapter last week. From left: Tuskegee Airmen member Vorry Moon, who happens also to be a Centennial City Council member, Councilman Presley and retired Col.l Lowell Bell, who leads the Hubert L Hooks Jones Tuskegee Denver chapter.
By Jan Wondra
He freely admits that he’s not a pilot, and anyone looking at him can see that he is not a person of color. But Greenwood Village City Councilman Jerry Presley’s dedication to the scholarship programs of the Tuskegee Airmen Denver Chapter saw two esteemed representatives of the organization award special recognition to Presley at the Jan. 5 council meeting.
The honor was presented by chapter leaders Col. Lowell Bell, the retired fighter pilot who leads what is officially called the Hubert L Hooks Jones Tuskegee Denver Chapter, and Vorry Moon, who also happens to be a Centennial City Council member.
“We’ve never recognized those who work so hard for the organization,” said Bell. “But he has done so much for our organization that it deserves recognition. He got right to work on the scholarship committee, which helps us fund the Mile High Flight program that introduces minority kids to aviation. First he got a $20,000 grant from The Daniels Fund. Then he raised $20,000 more.”
The chapter is a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of the black pilots, the ground and support crews who served with honor in World War II, helping to break the color barriers in the military and win the war. Among the chapter’s programs is the Mile High Flight Program, with a mission to help introduce the next generation to the career possibilities in aviation, aerospace, mathematics and science. The program is 15 years old.
“In case you didn’t know, there is a picture of Eleanor Roosevelt sitting in a Tuskegee Airman’s plane, the fellow in front of her is the highly decorated Chief Anderson, who is the person depicted on the United States Post Office stamp honoring the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Moon. “The scholarship funds are used to help us teach exceptional minority students ages 16 to 18 to fly. If they can do that, they can do anything with their lives.”
“I got introduced to Vorry through my government work,” said Presley. “Aviation has always interested me. Then I learned of their programs. The chance to work with these two decorated pilots, those who have given so much to their country, and inspire the next generation; well, this is special.”
The Mile High Flight Program focuses on teaching youth how to overcome adversity while they learn to fly. Professional pilots from airlines give their time to the program, to teach the outstanding youth selected each year for the program. Last year, that volunteer pilot time was valued at more than $170,000.
Among the basic principles instilled during the course of the program, youth are encouraged to aim high, to believe in themselves, to never quit, to be ready for opportunity and to expect to win. Probably lessons that all of us need.
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