September 10, 2015

Manchin Statement on the Passing of Beckley Native, Tuskegee Airman John M. Watson Jr.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin today issued a statement on the passing of Sergeant John M. Watson, Jr., a Beckley native and World War II veteran who served as an Aircraft Crew Chief for the Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of African American pilots in American armed forces history to fly and maintain combat aircraft.

“Gayle and I are heartbroken to hear of the passing of Sergeant John Watson, a true American hero and an emblem of patriotism and courage. As a Tuskegee Airman, Sergeant Watson boldly and fearlessly answered the call of duty to defend our nation and protect our freedoms. He represents the sacrifices made by our nation’s Greatest Generation, who fought in an era that threatened our existence as a nation.

“I will always remember dearly the day I met Sergeant Watson. This past May, I had the incredible privilege to personally thank him for his service. At 96 years old, Sergeant Watson had never been formally recognized as a Tuskegee Airman. My staff and I were honored to work with the Tuskegee Airmen organization to make sure he was swiftly inducted and presented the Congressional Gold Medal that he so rightly earned and deserved. This is a moment I will forever hold near and dear. Gayle and I join all West Virginians in keeping Sergeant Watson’s entire family in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Senator Manchin worked with Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. to make sure Sergeant Watson was inducted into the elite organization. To watch video coverage from the special award ceremony, please click here.