Henry E. Rohlsen was one of the first African-American fighter pilots in the 99th Squadron of the United States Army Air Force. Born on October 6, 1916, on the island of St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands, he served his country during World War II. As a pilot, he was part of the famed 332nd Fighter Group, made up entirely of Tuskegee Airmen.
Rohlsen also served as a member of the Virgin Islands Legislature, from 1945 through 1948, and was Chairman and President of the National Airlines of Ecuador. Unfortunately, because of his skin color, it became almost impossible for him to receive the recognition he deserved.
The Tuskegee Airmen became famous as the first African-American pilots in the U.S. military. They proved that Black men could fly advanced aircraft in combat just as well as their white counterparts. They were dedicated, determined young men who volunteered to become America's first Black military pilots.
Rohlson played an essential part in the Tuskegee Airmens' success and heroism during World War II. Unfortunately, there were multiple stereotypes inflicted upon African Americans, stating that they had neither the character nor the ability for combat. Nevertheless, their achievements laid crucial groundwork for Civil Rights progress in the decades to come.
In 1948, President Harry Truman enacted Executive Order No.9981, directing equality of treatment and opportunity in all of the United States armed forces, which led to the end of racial segregation in the U.S military.
Growing up and reading articles about how Henry E. Rohlsen was treated as part of the Tuskegee Airmen was a big eye-opener for me. Because even though he was from a small island, he knew that he had a passion for serving his country.
His story resonated with me, a Virgin Islander, because he proved that it doesn't matter where you are from. You can be anything you wish, once you are focused and determined. To prove that he could perform his duties as a pilot, he had to work a hundred times harder than everyone else.
Such stories showed me that, no matter where you come from, even if it's from poverty, you can have the courage and determination to change your life and make the best out of it.
Therefore, I myself would embark on building the values that Rohlsen had, regarding his willingness to chase after what he wanted. Once I can maintain those values of courage, determination and a fighting spirit, the sky's the limit.
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