Retired Sgt. Victor W. Butler, the last surviving Tuskegee Airman in Rhode Island, has made a simple request for his 100th birthday. The trailblazing veteran says he only wants birthday cards when he celebrates the milestone on May 21.
“It’s just another day. That’s all,” Butler told WJAR, adding that he will read every single one of the cards.
The Tuskegee Airmen, a group of Black pilots and airmen who fought in World War II, led the way for desegregation in the U.S. military. The group was featured in the film Red Tails.
Butler, who fixed planes while serving as a mechanic with the Tuskegee Airmen, said his initial plan was to join the Canadian Air Force with a friend.
“But after I had signed up, my mother and father wouldn’t approve of it,” he said. “So, I joined with the American Air Force.”
The veteran persevered despite facing constant racism in Tuskegee, Alabama.
“Being in Tuskegee, Alabama, it wasn’t very acceptable to white people for Black soldiers to be walking around,” he said.
Butler now spends much of his time at home, completing his puzzles. He says puzzles are great “just to occupy the time.”
Butler’s advice to others is to “just enjoy life as it is.”
“I’m thankful that I have a nice wife, and a nice home to live in,” he said.