PHOENIXVILLE - Seventy years ago, "Coach" Roscoe Draper and Major John Harrison could not have imagined they'd be the revered guests of Phoenixville Area High School in a presentation honoring history's Tuskegee Airmen.
Seventy years ago, Draper
and Harrison were being rejected at almost every turn.
Harrison related a story of his
time at an airfield in Michigan where he
fellow Tuskegee officers were turned away from the officer's club, a place where even German prisoners of war were allowed in.
only wanted to serve his
But when he tried enlisting in the Army Air Corps, the recruiters turned him away.
and Harrison were joined by Aaron Watkins, a "second generation" Tuskegee Airman who flew a Chinook helicopter in the Vietnam War.
Harrison was one of the 992 cadets who received their wings and Draper
was one of the civilian pilot instructors who took part in what was called the "Tuskegee Experiment" during World War II.
was initially turned down by the Army Air Corps
tried enlisting in the late 1930s.
Instead of abandoning his hope to fly, Draper trained through the Civilian Pilot Training Program in 1939.
Draper became an instructor by 1942 and came to Tuskegee, teaching many of the pilots, including ace Lee Archer, who would go on to shoot down or damage 409 enemy aircraft as part of the 332nd Fighter Group.
After the war, Draper worked for the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, there is a room in the Philadelphia Inernational Airport named after him.
"I'm happy to be a part of the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen, and I'm proud to say that I was a part of it," Draper
took hope from the diverse crowd in the auditorium with him.
"I feel honored to be a part of history," Draper