Students from Silver Oak Academy watch a film before helping to set up the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen at the Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster Thursday, May 7, 2015.
Students from Silver Oak Academy watch a film before helping to set up the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen at the Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster Thursday, May 7, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLESTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Some of the Tuskegee Airmen will arrive at the Carroll County Regional Airport on Saturday for a celebration of their contributions to the American war effort.

The event, organized by the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron, a traveling tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, will feature a short film presented in a theater with a curved 180-degree screen, a restored World War II aircraft and a celebration of veterans at noon.

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Throughout the week, students from around the county made the trip to the airport in order to view the 30-minute film "Rise Above," which details the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and the restoration of a P-51C Mustang to its World War II status.

The event was brought to Carroll partially through the efforts of Jaclyn Mathias-Jones, of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. Mathias-Jones said the staff of Silver Oak Academy was interested in sharing the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen for the school's career day.

"As we started in this process, I began to wonder if we could get a hold of a real Tuskegee Airman. I've been in fundraising for 10 years, and I will call or talk to anybody, but I was nervous to call these gentlemen," Mathias-Jones said. "I idolize them for persevering with everything they've been through."

Two Tuskegee Airmen will be at the event as well as a 96-year-old Buffalo soldier who was drafted right before Pearl Harbor.

The Tuskegee Airmen were graduates of a small pilot program for black Americans, started in 1941, while the American military was still segregated. The pilots trained in Tuskegee, Ala., a journey that was the first trip to the Deep South for many of them.

After each squadron received original paint jobs to aid pilots in recognizing their own in the air, the Tuskegee Airmen became known as Red Tails, based on the red bands on the nose and rudder of their planes.

During World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen protected Allied bombers on runs throughout Europe. Eventually, the pilots became so well known that white bomber crews began specifically requesting Red Tail protection.

In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, and the surviving members were invited to President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008.

Mathias-Jones said she has been thrilled by the student response to the event so far.

"To see the kids come out with their dog tags on was just so exciting," Mathias-Jones said. "It doesn't matter if it was 1,000 kids or two kids. All that matters is if they came out and learned something."

Timothy Jackson, a senior at Silver Oak Academy, said this was his first time hearing about the Tuskegee Airmen and he was fascinated by their story.

"It was interesting to see them continue to fight the war despite the adversity of African-Americans at the time," Jackson said.

Silver Oak Academy senior Jordan Hines said he is excited to talk to the two Tuskegee Airmen who will be at the event Saturday.

"I had never thought about flying before. It seemed complicated, but then at the same time, it looked like it was doable," Hines said. "I want to learn what they needed to do in order to do that. I want to know how they got around to learning how to fly airplanes."

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Mathias-Jones said she wishes everybody would learn about this chapter in American history.

"They were fighting two wars. One was against racism, and the other was the war itself," Mathias-Jones said. "It was all because they wanted to succeed, and they wouldn't give up. It's that never-quit mentality that started it all."

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If you go

What: "Rise Above" screening and tribute

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 9

Where: Carroll County Regional Airport, 200 Airport Drive, Westminster

Cost: $5 per car

For more information: Visit redtail.org or call 410-876-5505.

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