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Virtual event pays tribute to veterans

Dr. Charlene McGee-Smith, daughter of original Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, speaks during the virtual Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Veterans Day Salute ceremony, Nov. 10. McGee-Smith spoke on her father’s behalf and shared his words of mentorship to more than 200 viewers before thanking all attending veterans for their service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roderick Berry)

Dr. Charlene McGee-Smith, daughter of original Tuskegee Airman Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, speaks during the virtual Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Veterans Day Salute ceremony, Nov. 10. McGee-Smith spoke on her father’s behalf and shared his words of mentorship to more than 200 viewers before thanking all attending veterans for their service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roderick Berry)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Officials here hosted Hanscom’s 12th annual Veterans Day Salute during a virtual episode of “Above and Beyond Six Feet” that streamed live Nov. 10.

The event paid tribute to the veterans of Team Hanscom and surrounding communities from all military branches.

Dr. Charlene McGee-Smith, daughter of original Tuskegee Airman, Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, spoke during the event on her father’s behalf as he was unable to attend. McGee, 100, served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

She continued to describe McGee’s words of wisdom he describes as the “four P’s:”

Perceive the possibilities; Prepare for any opportunity; Perform when called upon and Persist in the face of adversity.

“When my father speaks to younger generations, he tells them ‘one day, the U.S. will have a mission to Mars. I won’t be on that mission, but you might be, so make sure you’re ready,’” said Smith.

McGee-Smith authored McGee’s biography, “Tuskegee Airman: Biography of Charles E. McGee: Air Force Fighter Combat Record Holder,” to tell her father’s story.

The Department of Defense featured McGee in a “Voices of World War II” piece published earlier this week to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service. The Air Force released a docuseries on the Tuskegee Airmen, “Red Tailed Angels” on Veterans Day.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Dean Mottard, a Vietnam War veteran, was the principal guest speaker for Hanscom’s Veterans Day Salute event.

“Regardless of which branch we served in, our commonalities are the uniform and the infamous blank check we all signed,” said Mottard to the more than 200 who viewed the event. “We share a love of country, and a love of what and who we are as veterans.”

The ceremony included a slideshow of photos of Hanscom veterans during their time in service. Bobby Jacques, a Vietnam War veteran and coordinator for the event, read the names of more than 75 Hanscom veterans aloud as a group of 10 Airmen saluted each name.

“I always say that veterans go into the service as iron and come out as steel,” said Mottard. “It changes us, and makes us stronger.”