Great-Grandson of Tuskegee Airman Wants to Join Space Force

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Iain Lanphier and Charles McGee at the 2020 State of the Union
Tuskegee airman Charles McGee, 100, and his great grandson Iain Lanphier react as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

He's only 13, but he's already got his eye on joining the nation's newest military branch.

Meet Iain Lanphier, the Scottsdale, Arizona 8th-grader who attended the State of the Union Address Tuesday night as one of President Donald Trump's special guests. Lanphier got a standing ovation in the packed House of Representatives as Trump introduced him.

"Iain has always dreamed of going to space. He was first in his class and among the youngest at an aviation academy," Trump said. "He aspires to go to the Air Force Academy, and then, he has his eye on the Space Force. As Iain says, 'most people look up at space, I want to look down on the world.'"

Lanphier has already distinguished himself, last year becoming the top graduate of the Aerospace Career Education program, sponsored by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, according to a biography published by the White House. But he also comes from a distinguished line of trailblazers.

Sitting next to Ian was 100-year-old Charles McGee, one of the last survivors of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen -- African-American pilots who fought heroically in World War II.

McGee was continuing a momentous week, having conducted the coin toss at the Super Bowl just days earlier.

"Charles McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one century ago," Trump said. " ... After more than 130 combat missions in World War II, he came back to a country still struggling for Civil Rights and went on to serve America in Korea and Vietnam."

Trump noted that he had signed a bill several weeks before to give McGee an honorary promotion to brigadier general.

"Earlier today, I pinned the stars on his shoulders in the Oval Office," Trump said. "General McGee: Our Nation salutes you, thank you, sir."

Lanphier may have a few years to wait before he can join Space Force, but the fledgling service may be ready for new recruits soon: the fiscal 2021 defense budget request, expected to be released later this month, will contain funding for the service's continued establishment.

And there may soon be more space opportunities for Lanphier, as well: Trump in his speech announced that he plans to ask Congress to fully fund the Artemis program "to ensure that the next man and the first woman on the moon will be American astronauts."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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