Last week, I attended the memorial service for Lt. Col. Paul Adams. Many of you may remember him as a longtime teacher in the Lincoln Public Schools and a voice for reconciliation in our community. Born in South Carolina, Adams moved to Lincoln at the end of a long career in military service. He was my friend. He was a quiet, gentle man, but at one point in life he fought fearlessly for our country and our values.
During World War II, Lt. Col. Adams was a member of the Air Army Corps Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who overcame racial prejudice to become important members of the U.S. military. Assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, or the "Red Tails" as they were called for the unique design painted on their aircraft, Adams flew planes to protect the Naples Harbor in Italy. In all, the Red Tails flew more than 1,500 missions in Europe and North Africa during World War II, an unprecedented number for a fighter group. They became known as "guardian angels," for their efforts protecting other bomber crews, for which Adams received a Congressional Gold Medal in April 2007.
I shared a laugh with Lt. Col. Adams' family at his memorial service, recalling the time that I informed the Colonel about our effort in Congress to award the Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal. Adams, then about 86, looked at me and said: "Please hurry."
Last year, I had the opportunity to sit down with Lt. Col. Adams and his family as part of the organized national effort called the "Veterans History Project." It was a unique opportunity to ask him questions and learn more about his extraordinary service to our nation. You can view a portion of our discussion by clicking here.
The Veterans History Project is an important effort by the Library of Congress to collect and preserve first-hand interviews of America's wartime veterans. It is an invaluable resource for all Americans, especially our youth. Created by Congress in 2000, the Veterans History Project has thus far collected the histories of 89,000 veterans nationwide.
My office seeks to help facilitate Veterans History Project interviews from veterans throughout the First Congressional District. In the next month, we will organize special opportunities for war-time veterans in Nebraska to record their stories. We will provide further details regarding these events in the coming weeks.
It is important that we preserve the stories of America's bravest defenders, those modern-day heroes like Lt. Col. Paul Adams, for the benefit of generations to come. If you would like to know more about the VHP initiative in the First District, or know of a veteran who would like to participate, please call my Lincoln office at 402-438-1598. You can also find more information about the Veterans History Project at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.