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AETC hosts red carpet 'Red Tails' premiere

The first day of the Air Education and Training Command Symposium in San Antonio ended with the premiere of the movie "Red tails." Eight surviving Tuskegee Airmen attended. Star of the film Nate Parker introduced the film to 1,950 AETC Airmen and guests. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Marleah Miller)

The first day of the Air Education and Training Command Symposium in San Antonio ended with the premiere of the movie "Red tails." Eight surviving Tuskegee Airmen attended. Star of the film Nate Parker introduced the film to 1,950 AETC Airmen and guests. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Marleah Miller)

SAN ANTONIO -- The Air Education and Training Command Symposium focuses on the future of the command. But this year, on the eve of the first day, a special event was held to honor heroes and their legacy.

Nearly 2,000 symposium attendees filled San Antonio's Lila Cockrell Theater Thursday to pre-screen an upcoming Lucasfilm Ltd. movie, "Red Tails", which chronicles the endeavors of a highly decorated fighter unit of Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Eight surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen were in attendance as well as one of the main actors in the film, Nate Parker, who played Capt. Marty "Easy" Julian.

"I am overwhelmed," said Dr. Granville Coggs, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Tuskegee Airmen. "I am so pleased to see that it's been advertised so that people will see it. In my view, and I'm speaking right from my heart, the movie can only go down in my estimation because what I've seen is so fantastic and I'm so appreciative."

Coggs, a B-25 Mitchell pilot, expressed nothing but gratitude and said with the help of the movie, he hopes to pass the lessons he learned on to the next generation of Airmen.

"As far as being a mentor, [my life] shows what dedication can do and what preparation can do," he said. "It's important for young people to know that you can live your dream.

"I am so appreciative of Lucasfilm and documenting this history," Coggs said. "So I'm just the beneficiary of the fighter pilots who created this wonderful record that's been documented."

Parker expounded on the lessons he got while working on the film.

"I think it's of the highest importance," he said. "I mean you look at the issues in our communities, especially in our inner cities whether it be the broken education system, the poverty and the prison industrial complex. We're in a situation where we have all these problems and historically we look for answers in our past. So we look back at the Tuskegee Airmen. What did they do when they had these moments of adversity? They pursued excellence. Excellence was their mantra through all of this adversity, through the racism, through the problems they had with Hitler and at home the problems they had dealing with all of the discrimination and prejudice. The one thing they held on to was their excellence."

Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of Air Education and Training Command, said looking back on the challenges the Tuskegee Airmen had to overcome give people the strength and courage to carry on.

"I think that's a great message for people of all generations," he said.

As the movie conlcluded, Parker asked everyone to stand arm-in-arm with the person next to them. Then he led them in the battle cry portrayed in the movie. The room shook as the voices of nearly 2,000 men and women shouted, "We fight, we fight, we fight!"