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Veterans From Vastly Different Wars Will Meet, Share Their Stories, At Rutgers-Newark Programs

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    Max Cleland’s Talk Is Oct. 25, Tuskegee Airman Eugene Richardson’s Is Nov. 7

They span three generations and several different foreign wars, but all will have their military service in common when student veterans at Rutgers University, Newark, meet a famed Vietnam War veteran n ext week, on Oct. 25, and a member of World War II’s legendary Tuskegee Airmen on Nov. 7.

The Rutgers Student Veterans Organization (RSVO), comprised of male and female students who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the primary sponsor of the programs – both open to the public free of charge –which will bring the Honorable Max Cleland to campus Oct. 25, and Tuskegee Airman Eugene Richardson on Nov. 7. The programs will be in the Paul Robeson Campus Center (PRCC), 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark. Cleland’s talk is Oct. 25 at 2 p.m., in the Room 255-257 in PRCC; Richardson will speak at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 7 in Room 231 in PRCC.

Both programs are co-sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Rutgers Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights’ Program on War, Return and Remembrance, All three sponsors planned the events in connection with Veterans Day as a way to “recognize the service rendered to us all by the men and women who have bravely sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom,” according to Gerald Massenburg, associate chancellor for student life.

Max Cleland, who currently is secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict. He lost both legs and part of an arm as a result of a grenade blast during the Battle of Khe San. Cleland was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for his service to his nation. Since the war, his life has been dedicated to public service and to advocacy for veterans and the disabled. He was elected to the Georgia State Senate, headed the federal Veterans Administration during the Carter administration, was Georgia’s secretary of state, and served in the U.S. Senate from 1997-2003. He also served on the 9/11 Commission investigating the terror attacks on America.

Eugene Richardson joined the Army Air Corps at the age of 17 in a time when the U.S. military was racially segregated, and black Americans were considered by many to be incapable of piloting a plane. Richardson completed basic military training in 1943, and was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama, for pilot training, becoming a member of what became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He learned to fly P-40 and P-47 fighter planes, earned his pilot’s wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on March 11, 1945. The war with Germany ended a few weeks after his graduation, before he had a chance to fly a combat mission. He returned home to complete high school and went on to earn an undergraduate degree at Temple University and a master’s and doctorate in education at Penn State. He pursued a successful career in education in the Philadelphia School System.

The Tuskegee Airmen
Before 1940, African-Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen… The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air…
The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They proved conclusively that African-Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.
Excerpted from the National Parks Service online exhibit, American Visionaries, Legends of Tuskegee http://www.cr.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airoverview.htm

The Rutgers Student Veterans Organization is a student-run advocacy group comprised of student veterans and supporters at Rutgers University in Newark. RSVO’s mission is to provide student veterans with a strong and inspirational support network as well as to assist the student veteran in all aspects of the college experience, focusing on three critical areas vital to the success and development of all student veterans: Transition, from military to college life, and then from college life to the workplace; Enrichment, to make the college experience for veterans as rich and full as possible, both in and out of the classroom; and Community Service, since RSVO believes that service to country and community doesn’t end once military service is over, and strives to aid and serve both the Rutgers community and the local one.

The Rutgers Program on War, Return, and Remembrance (http://cghr.newark.rutgers.edu/programs/war_remembrance.html) aims to enhance understanding of war and the people who fight it, the post-war lives of those who served, and the manner in which society remember those who died. The program sponsors a distinguished speaker series that examines current issues related to war, return and remembrance, and offers outreach to veterans within the university and neighboring communities. It also incorporates classroom education that focuses on books, film, and other media used by combat veterans to relate their personal experiences. The program director, Jack McLean, is a combat veteran who served in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps in 1967-1968. He is the author of the best-selling memoir based on his experience, “Loon: A Marine Story” (Random House, 2009).