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May 14, 2016

2016 Volvo and UAW Veterans Ride for Freedom

25th Anniversary

2016 marks the 25th Anniversary of the UAW Veterans Ride for Freedom/Run to the Wall. During these 25 years, the Volvo New River Valley Truck Plant in Dublin, Virginia has proudly supported both the Ride and the Veterans Committee of UAW local 2069 in numerous ways, including providing a veterans themed tribute truck.

This year’s truck, designed by Veterans Committee members, is a tribute to all who have served our military, to those who have paid the ultimate supreme sacrifice for our freedom and the American dream, and to those who remain POW/MIA and their families.

This year, the Ride for Freedom truck pays particular tribute to our WWII veterans, both European and Pacific theaters.

The Tuskegee Airmen; The first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. The first black military pilots were trained in the United States at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field, located near Tuskegee, Alabama.

Alexander Jefferson, born in Detroit, Michigan in Nov. 1921, rose above race prejudices and segregation. Graduating high school in 1938, he was the only African-American to take college preparatory classes. In 1942, he graduated from Clark College in Atlanta Georgia, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biology.

In September, 1942, Alex was sworn into the U S Army Reserve, volunteering but not accepted for flight training. Taking a job as an analytical chemist for three months, he entered the graduate school of Howard University, applying again to the U S Army Air Corp.pic

Called up for flight training in April 1943, Jefferson received orders to report to Tuskegee Army Airfield to begin flight training. Receiving his pilots wings and officers commission at Tuskegee, Lt. Jefferson was assigned to the 332rd "Red Tail" Fighter group at the Ramitelli Airfield in Italy, flying the P-51 Mustang. Assigned to a fighter escort wing protecting bombing missions of the U S Army Air Corp, his job was to attack key ground targets and guard the bombing mission against enemy Nazi Luftwaffe fighters. On August 12, 1944, Lt. Jefferson was shot down and captured on his 19th mission while strafing radar towers in advance of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France.

Like many young men of his generation, he had named his aircraft after a sweetheart back home, Margo. Having bailed out practically on top of the gunners he had been attacking, he was immediately captured, and spent the next nine months in a series of German POW camps. After the Russian Army entered Poland, the prisoners were marched to Munich by the Germans, where they were freed by General George Patton's U S Third Army in 1945.

Lt. Alexander Jefferson and many of his generation is representative of the sacrifice that, regardless of race, was willing to make in order to rid the world of the evils of fascism. He and his generation put life, limb, and love behind their commitment to duty. Doing so, they created an inspirational legacy that has led to that generation being referred to as this Nation’s Greatest Generation.  The Tuskegee Airman fought the twin evils of Nazism abroad and racism at home, and with grace and courage, defeated both. Their victory in both arenas was a victory that made America a better place for all Americans.

Jefferson served as an instrument instructor at Tuskegee Army Airfield until it closed in 1946. He remained in the U S Air Force Reserves, retiring in 1969 as a Lt. Colonel.

In 1947, Jefferson received his teaching certificate from Wayne State University and began teaching elementary school science in Detroit. He earned his master’s degree in education in 1954, and was appointed assistant principal in 1969.  He retired in 1979, after over 30 years of service.

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