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James named honorary Tuskegee airman at Air Force Memorial's 10th anniversary

The Air Force Memorial celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday with a star-studded ceremony.

The celebration kicked off with the Air Force Band and a flyover from the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation's F-22 and F-35 demo team, as well as the P-51 and P-38.

The service's national memorial, which includes three 270-foot-tall spires, was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2006, and aims to honor the commitment and sacrifice of all airmen who have served.

Speakers included Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, retired Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer and current Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

The importance of Tuskegee Airmen was highlighted at the event, where James was named an honorary member. She received the iconic Tuskegee red jacket, which represents the red-painted tails on the P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs flown in World War II. 

Air Force Memorial celebrates 10th anniversary

The Air Force memorial celebrated its 10th anniversary in Arlington, Virginia, complete with a star-studded ceremony. Guest speakers included the president of the Air Force Association, the chief of staff of the Air Force, and the secretary of the Air Force, who received a historic honor.

"My heart is palpitating, and it's difficult to find words," James said after receiving the jacket.

The Tuskegee Airmen were role models and contributed greatly to the efforts during World War II, she said.

The group was the first African American airmen to serve in the U.S. military.

"It's crucial to tell these stories and continue that legacy forward," James said.

Retired Gen. Larry Spencer, former Air Force vice chief of staff, said the history of the Tuskegee Airmen provided him motivation, strength and self-worth as he was growing up.

"When I heard [James] was going to be made an honorary Tuskegee airman, I was happy, but I was not surprised," said Spencer, who is now president of the Air Force Association.

The ceremony also featured a performance by American Idol singer Melinda Doolittle, who placed third during the show's sixth season in 2007. Former Air Force radio personality Adrian Cronauer, who inspired the film "Good Morning, Vietnam," narrated a performance with the Air Force Band.

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at 

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