Orlando, Florida–In a stirring ceremony that moved some to tears and crystallized a dream held by Vision of Flight CEO Mike McKenzie, ground was broken at Orlando Science Center on Tuesday May, 7th where the only monument ever designed to honor the Red Tail pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen, will be erected on Veteran’s Day.
The official groundbreaking ceremony followed some two years of campaigning by McKenzie, a pilot with a passion to introduce students to careers in the many aspects of the aviation industry through his educational organization, Vision of Flight. It’s the same passion that led him to a close and personal relationship with Central Florida’s three surviving Red Tail pilots.
“After I had the incredible honor of meeting Lieutenant Colonels Leo Gray, George Hardy and Hiram Mann and hear their stories of service to our country, I knew that a mission to have a monument in honor of these heroes was one that I could not give up,” McKenzie said after the ceremony. “Of course, this mission could not have flown without an extraordinary team of people sharing a vision; including my dear friend Syd Levy, the CEO of United Trophy in Orlando whose generosity has financed its entire cost,” McKenzie said. Levy, who also owns Flea World in Sanford and whose brother was a pilot during World War II, said he was proud to fund the monument designed to honor the heroism of the Red Tail pilots who flew countless escort missions for bombers, even as they faced racial discrimination as the first African-American military aviators in the U.S.
McKenzie also paid tribute to “the incredible support of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, District 3 City Commissioner Robert F. Stuart and Orlando Science Center President and CEO JoAnn Newman who found the perfect spot for this monument to land,” he said.
About Vision of Flight Vision of Flight (www.VisionofFlight.org) is an Orlando, Florida based organization dedicated to providing students, especially those with a keen focus towards aviation and aerospace, with an introduction to the myriad of careers available to them in aeronautics, through an exciting, engaging and interactive program that includes aircraft flight.
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PHOTOGRAPHY: Leonard Greene