After enjoying the Owens Community College Concert Band's performance of holiday, patriotic, and silver screen musical selections today, the packed house in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts on the Perrysburg Township campus sang along with traditional carols such as Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World.
Though they ended with Silent Night, the crowd erupted into applause to give a standing ovation to the musicians as well as recognition to special guest Col. Harold Brown of Catawba Island, Ohio.
"I'm humbled," he said, as several people lined up to shake his hand and thank him for his World War II service as a Tuskegee Airman, a member of the first African-American flying squad in U.S. military history.
One of those folks was Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, who was wearing the black leather jacket he received from the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard when he flew with them to the Tuskegee museum in Detroit and made an honorary airman.
Colonel Brown said he joined the Army Air Corps as a 17-year-old high school graduate, coming home at age 20 after flying bomber escort missions from his base in Italy to targets over southern Germany. He had a 23-year postwar career in the Air Force
He spent several years at Columbus State Community College, retiring as its vice president of Academic Affairs. He serves as a consultant for the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and Schools.
He later was involved in the production of Red Tails, Stephen Spielberg's 2012 film that was a tribute to the Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group.
Community band director Fred Dais expressed gratitude for veterans like Colonel Brown who helped ensure the very freedom Americans have to put on such a free holiday concert and to worship at whatever church or synagogue they desired.
"I was just happy we had the opportunity to honor Colonel Brown," he said.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at 419-356-8786, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK.