ACT II: Feats of Service – The Tuskegee Airmen

by | Dec 26, 2018 | Older Adults | 0 comments

Callie Odom Gentry is a U.S. hero and active member of the Pinellas County community. As a member of two local nonprofit groups, she loves to get out and socialize. Callie is a shining example of how to enjoy being part of the ACT II generation. Her service in the U.S. armed forces with the Tuskegee Airmen earned her a Congressional Gold Medal, for which she is very proud.

Serving as a Stenographer

Callie served as a stenographer at the Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio, which primarily housed the Tuskegee Airmen. She worked with the headquarters personnel, taking shorthand and transcribing it. Some of her work included interviewing survivors after a plane crash.

“My shorthand got me into a whole lot of work that I would not normally do,” says Callie. Sometimes, she would work transcribing shorthand until late at night. “Every time they needed a stenographer from headquarters, they’d come down, and there I was.”

One day, Callie was given two pads of shorthand she had taken weeks before and was asked to transcribe them. Apparently, all of her original transcriptions had been lost.

“Anybody that ever took shorthand will tell you if they put down the stuff for a couple of days — let alone a few weeks — they wouldn’t know what the heck’s down there,” explains Callie. Despite her skill for stenography, that incident inspired her to leave it behind after she left the Air Force.

“I promised I would never, never take shorthand again,” says Callie. “And I haven’t.”

A Proud Legacy

Callie is proud of her time with the Tuskegee Airmen. During her interview, she shared pictures from her time in the service as well as her collection of posters from movies made about the Tuskegee Airmen.

In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian award presented by the U.S. Congress. The medal was given to the pilots, bombardiers, navigators, mechanics and other men and women who performed support duties for the Tuskegee Airmen.

US Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Callie modestly opened a case and presented a 3” gold medal characterized by the profiles of three Tuskegee Airmen pilots. “I’m not one to blow my own horn,” she says, noting that she has shared this honor with very few people.

Standing up for Human Rights

Shortly after World War II ended, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 10, 2018, marked the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day. Brave people like the Tuskegee Airmen who stand up to injustice are responsible for making our world a better place.

Their heroic and noble service helped prove to the world that every person deserves equal opportunity, equal rights and respect.

Take a moment today to remember the Tuskegee Airmen, their service to our nation and their contribution to the civil rights movement.