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Memorial Day Observance to Feature Tuskegee Airman

The annual event, this year titled, "The Price of Freedom," will begin at 11 a.m. on May 28.

A Tuskegee Airman and a former U.S. Navy Seal will be the guest speakers at Monday's annual at Golden Gate National Cemetery.

The program, which is organized by the Avenue of the Flags Committee, will begin at 11 a.m. The San Andreas Brass Band will play a musical prelude before the event starts, followed by a U.S. Coast Guard flyover.

Capt. Les Williams, 92, is one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. From 1941-49, more than 16,000 Tuskegee Airmen served in the military. Williams, a Belmont resident, was one of the first black bomber pilots commissioned by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Williams was part of the famed 332nd Fighter Group, which escorted bombers during the war and had one of the lowest loss records of all the escort fighter groups and was depicted in the movie, "Red Tails."

Peter Skeehan, of Mountain View, is a Daly City police officer who served in more than 250 combat missions, according to Carolyn Livengood of the Avenue of the Flags Committee. He was awarded a Bronze Star medal and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Livengood said.

Both Williams and Skeehan will share their stories at the solemn observance, this year titled, "The Price of Freedom," which honors those men and women who have died in service to the nation.

Leading up to the event, San Bruno Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts as well as Scouts from around the area and community members and veterans will place more than 112,700 small U.S. flags on gravesites throughout the cemetery.

Scouts will gather for a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, then disperse to place the flags. Volunteers are welcome to participate.

Correction: This story incorrectly stated that Capt. Les Williams is one of the few Tuskegee Airmen still living. It can't be verified how many Tuskegee Airmen are still alive. Also, it is a myth that the 332nd Fighter Group never lost a a bomber to an enemy aircraft. The 332d Fighter Group sometimes escorted bombers that were shot down by enemy aircraft. But, overall, they lost very few and destroyed well over a hundred enemy aircraft, including three German jets.

Phyllis McArthur May 26, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I had the honor and privlidge to work with Les at a Real Estate office in San Mateo. He is a brilliant man and has a kind heart. One of the things not mentioned in this story is that Les recieved a Law Degree at age 50, and later recieved a Real Estate license in his 80's! He always stopped at my desk to chat and tell me great stories about his time in the military. He was never bitter, just very proud of his acomplishments. I consider him a friend and will attend the service.
Ann Higgins May 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
We have lived in San Bruno for 44 years and never attended the ceremonies at the Golden Gate National Cemetery. Although we had some incentive as our son-in-law was one of the Color Guard members, it was a very touching day. He has done two tours in Iraq and we are so grateful that he was not injured or killed. Being there with those who have lost loved ones and knowing there are many veterans buried there who fought for our freedom was very moving.
Martin Ricard May 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Thank you for your comment, Ann.

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