ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A retired Tuskegee Airman shared lessons of hardship, racism, and success with students in St. John's County today. Lt. Col. Hiram Mann says he gives speeches to motivate and educate younger generations.
"Youngsters of today both black and white don't realize the struggles that we had," said Mann.
Mann spoke to students of all races about his experience as a Tuskegee Airman. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first group of African-American men trained by the Army Air Corps. His speech mixed history with life lessons.
"We weren't wanted, but I wanted to fly. So I endured many unsufferable things. I was called many things that today I wouldn't have to worry about it," said Mann.
Mann was a member of the 332nd Fighter Group who flew in 48 missions during World War 2. He shared stories about the importance of education laced with a theme of motivation and dedication. A lesson student Terwko Thomas heard loud and clear.
"I took away that he really wanted to be an airman, so he really pushed to do what he wanted to do and you just got to keep going even though adversity. You got to keep pushin," said Thomas.
Mann says he hopes everyone who attends his speaking engagements takes away one lesson.
"If you want to do something badly enough, you will persevere. That's about it," said Mann.
Lt. Col Mann retired from the Air Force after serving 21 years and went to college to finish his bachelor's degree and earn a master's degree. Mann said he plans to continue speaking to groups about the importance of the Tuskegee airmen and the impact they had on the military and the nation.