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  • Gen Daniel "Chappie" James Jr.

    Gen. Daniel R. “Chappie” James Jr. (1920-1978), a Tuskegee Airman who trained and served during World War II, in 1975 became the first African American to achieve the grade of four-star general. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    After he pinned on his fourth star, Air Force Gen. Daniel James Jr. summed up his thoughts on his years of military service: "I've fought in three wars, and three more wouldn't be too many to defend my country. I love America, and as she has weaknesses or ills, I'll hold her hand." The first African-American service member to reach the rank of full general, "Chappie" James at the time of his promotion in 1975 was also named commander of the N... more

  • Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr.

    Official portrait of astronaut Guion S. Bluford. Bluford, a member of Astronaut Class 8 and the United States Air Force (USAF), poses in his launch and entry suit. (NASA photo)

    Air Force Col. Guion S. "Guy" Bluford has compared his first blastoff into space to a ride in a high-speed elevator through a bonfire. However, the Aug. 30, 1983, launch that illuminated the skies for miles around was memorable for others because Bluford — a mission specialist who had spent over a year preparing for his trip aboard the space shuttle Challenger — was the first African-American astronaut in history. (The first black man in outer... more

  • Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

    Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (Air Force Photo)

    On Oct. 25, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. became the first African American to hold star rank in the U.S. Army and in the armed forces. He was promoted to brigadier general, temporary — a situation with which he was all too familiar, as his promotions to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel had all originally been "temporary." Such was the situation for black officers in Davis's day — all two or three of them. Fortunately for today's 10,000-p... more

  • Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm

    Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm. (DoD photo)

    Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm spent her life and military career breaking through the barriers. She joined the military in July 1942 and didn't retire until three decades later, after becoming the first woman in any branch of service to reach the rank of two-star general. Trained as a silversmith, Holm enlisted quickly after Congress formed the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs). After attending Officer Candidate School, she was c... more

  • Col. Vernon P. Ligon Jr.

    Col. Vernon P. Ligon Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    Between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day lies a lesser-known but no less important commemoration. POW/MIA Day, Sept. 15, is a day for remembering the men and women who, like Air Force Col. Vernon P. Ligon Jr., have suffered at the hands of a wartime enemy. All too often, those who become prisoners of war or who are reported missing in action never come home. But Ligon survived captivity and returned -- not only once, but three times from three s... more

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