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‘I’m awed’: 100-year-old Tuskegee Airman honored on his birthday

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr., a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, turned 100 years old. (Photo provided by/ WXYZ via CNN Newsource)

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A decorated World War II fighter pilot reached a major milestone this Fourth of July.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr. turned 100 years old. Eighty years ago, he earned distinction in the skies of Europe as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

The Detroit chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and Tuskegee National Historical Museum paid tribute with a one-of-a-kind birthday present for one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.

“It’s not too easy to get used to yet,” Stewart said. “I wanted it to happen very fast when I was a teenager but now, I want it to slow down a little bit.”

Deployed overseas to Italy in 1944 and assigned to the 332 Fighter Group, Stewart flew 43 Long Range Bomber escort missions into central Europe and was credited with destroying three enemy aircraft in aerial combat, and one of the original four Top Gun.

“We flew together in Las Vegas at the first Top Gun,” Stewart said.

Decades later at 100, Stewart is still as sharp as a tact with a memory like an elephant and a big sense of humor.

“We are just blessed to have this day, this moment in time to celebrate him, his accomplishments, his history, his legacy and all he’s done for America and Americans,” Tamara Perrin with Tuskegee Airmen Inc. said.

It was a party full of his family and friends from near and far, giving Stewart his flowers while he can smell them.

“I’m awed. I’m just overwhelmed with it. I think it’s wonderful,” Stewart said.

He says he’s happy to share his special day with the county he fought for.

“I think I love it just as much. I loved it then, I love it now,” Stewart said. “I think we still have a way to go, no question about it. And I think we got to be vigilant as we were in the past.”