'Hero' 99-Year-Old Tuskegee Airman Honored With Medals and His Own Day in Special Ceremony
A 99-year-old Arkansas veteran is finally receiving recognition after serving in the Korean War and as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II.
Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Franklin Vaughns was honored in a special ceremony on Aug. 21 and received a medal at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, The Pine Bluff Commercial reported. According to the outlet, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington also declared August 21, 2019 Thomas Franklin Vaughns Day.
"We challenge every citizen in the city of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to learn at least two lessons from the life of Thomas Franklin Vaughns," Washington said. "One is [that] life is about serving others without expecting anything in return. That's what Mr. Thomas Franklin Vaughns has done for us. Nugget number two is our communities are strongest when we honor our civic duty to be involved."
Ark. Sen. John Boozman presented Vaughns with the National Defense Service Medal and replacements for four medals the veteran lost: the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII and the Good Conduct Medal, according to the Commercial.
After Vaughns returned home from service, he pursued a career in education, did volunteer work and mentored several 4-H Club members, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Several of the mentees attended the ceremony and spoke about how Vaughns changed their lives.
"We all know about his great career in the military, going off at a young age to serve his country, willing to do whatever he was asked to do. Then he came home and, like the greatest generation, rebuilt the country," Ark. Sen. John Boozman said of Vaughns during the ceremony, the Gazette reported.
"He's a hero in every sense of the word. Not because of his military service — that's part of it — but he's a hero because of the way he's lived his life."
Vaughns sat alert and smiling as officials honored him with speeches and presentations. He even offered advice to the younger generation.
"Stay off drugs — that's number one; when you have the opportunity to go to school, stay in school," he said. "When you come out…come out with the idea of serving people."
He added of the recognition: "Just means that I've been a servant for the people, that's what it means to me."