It was a vastly different time when the Tuskegee Airmen fought. While there may be discord across the nation and world…these men were legitimately castigated and treated with the utmost contempt both verbally and physically. How did they respond? Was the greatness of these men only in their keen and almost unmatched aerial prowess? We think their skill is but one small piece of what made the Tuskegee Airmen so great.

Nobody liked them. Nobody believed in them. In fact, several times the program was almost canceled and the aircrews were given derelict aircraft to fly. There are several ways to handle people that hate you. You can fight them, you can argue with them, or you can just outshine them by being who you are. While there may have been isolated liberty incidents between pilots, the fact is that the Tuskegee Airmen maintained not only a stellar combat record but were also extremely disciplined speaks volumes about their character.

Soon to be added to the nation's fighting forces will be an all-black aviation squadron, whose members now are in training at Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Ala. Some of the cadets at the Basic and Advanced Flying School for Negro Air Corps Cadets are shown here, Jan. 23, 1942, lined up for review with Maj. James A. Ellison returning the salute of Mac Ross of Dayton, Ohio, as he inspects the cadets. (U.S. Army Signal Corps via AP)
Soon to be added to the nation's fighting forces will be an all-black aviation squadron, whose members now are in training at Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Ala. Some of the cadets at the Basic and Advanced Flying School for Negro Air Corps Cadets are shown here, Jan. 23, 1942, lined up for review with Maj. James A. Ellison returning the salute of Mac Ross of Dayton, Ohio, as he inspects the cadets. (U.S. Army Signal Corps via AP)

Going back to our first questions “How did they respond?” and “Was their greatness only in their keen and almost unmatched aerial prowess?” instead of focusing on the hatred, the Tuskegee Airmen were there to do a job and they weren’t going to let hate get in their way. The bravery they showed in the air was only surpassed by the bravery they showed on the ground enduring the abuse and hate of everyday life while providing fighter escort for bombing missions over Europe.

How the Tuskegee Airmen helped break the Army's racial barrier

A group of World War II pilots were the first to break the U.S. Army’s racial barrier, leading to the eventual desegregation of the military. These pilots came to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends…but what about laying down his life for those that hate him? That character, that integrity, that bravery is something we should all strive for. These men showed us the best of humanity despite being shown the worst in humanity.

As their motto goes, we say as well, “Spit Fire, Tuskegee Airmen, Spit Fire!”

Originally published at American Grit. Read more from American Grit here: