By Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Bustling with last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers, the Peterson Base Exchange played host to second-generation Tuskegee Airmen, the local Buffalo Soldiers chapter, and a small group of original Navajo Code Talkers Feb. 14.
Swarms of patrons grinned brightly for photos and stood anxiously in line waiting to meet these American heroes and hear their stories.
Jay Lamb, 20-year Army retiree and secretary of the Colorado Springs Buffalo Soldiers chapter, said his motorcycle club’s mission is to continue to spread the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers, who earned their name for the fierce nature in which they fought during battle, and the role the soldiers had in building the United States.
Wrapped in a leather vest adorned with weathered patches, Lamb stayed busy sharing short history lessons with passers-by.
“A lot of people don’t know about the Buffalo Soldiers because they aren’t taught in the history books like they once were,” said Lamb.
Alfred Newman, a former Code Talker with the 3rd Marine Regiment who served throughout the Pacific theater in World War II, said ever since he was a young boy he admired the Marines and their mission. It was this admiration that led him to volunteer to join the Corps prior to becoming draft-eligible.
Newman sat under a bright red cap, trimmed in yellow and dotted with Marine-themed pins as he dutifully signed books and photos for eager visitors who had never met a Code Talker in person.
He said events like these remain significant because it was the Navajo who helped gain strategic advantage during World War II, which ultimately lead to the defeat of the Japanese. Newman added that ensuring this story is shared with today’s youth is something he believes is very important, which is why he continues participating in these events.
Across the hall, wearing the unmistakable crimson jacket and hat, sat retired Chief Master Sgt. Loran Smith, second-generation Tuskegee Airman, who stayed busy signing shirts and reminiscing about his final Air Force days, which he spent here at Peterson.
Smith served 29 years in the Air Force during which he flew 266 combat missions in Vietnam earning him 10 Air Medals and several other decorations making him the most highly decorated member of the aerospace medicine career field.
Their goal that day was the same as it has always been, to keep the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen alive, Smith said.
He acknowledged the Tuskegee Airmen who served before him saying that they were heroes who paved the way for people of color, proving their mettle in battle and that they could indeed fly an airplane.