BHM: Tuskegee Airman reflects on his experiences

Grant

The year is 1945. America is at war with Germany, the Civil Rights Movement is in progress and many young men are being drafted to go to war. A small Christian family sits at their dinner table. They make conversation and laughter, creating memories that are more normal than what will come. They will soon be affected by war, and this will be the turning point of Frank Weaver’s life.

Frank Weaver is a documented original Tuskegee Airman. He was an airplane mechanic and hangar chief on the 477th bombardment group, a group that was all African-American.

“It would take weeks of hard work to fix planes, but I learned a lot,” Weaver said.

Weaver’s experiences in war were on the mild side. He was not involved in direct combat, but was responsible for every plane that took flight, making sure they were in the right place at the right time and that “his men” were ready to fight. Every morning, the men had to do “noisy” pre-flight checks with the bombers, which Weaver attributes to his hearing loss today.

“It’s hard to say what would’ve happened without us but we definitely played a big part in the war,” Weaver said.

After the war, Weaver began his work with his church as a deacon for 55 years. Christianity held a place in his heart. He enjoyed going to church and having purpose in his life and having something to thank for his brothers coming back from the war unharmed.

“We’re growing up in an era where God is mocked and God is real,” Weaver said. “All that we are in the midst of is God.”

`Beyond his church work, Weaver is a father to both of his sons and his daughter-in-law, Andre Wilson. Andre’s mother died after giving birth to her; her own father died later in her life. Since then, Weaver has made it his duty to raise her as his own.

“He was a phenomenal father figure. He worked two jobs,” Andre Wilson said. “He worked at GE full time and then he brought what he learned from the military into the community.”

Weaver said the Tuskegee Airmen taught him responsibility and how to be a man.

“He found a way to support and sustain his family and he built a gas station, hiring family, friends and young men,” Andre Wilson said. “I used to sell candy at seven years old.”

“He’s the only grandfather I’ve known,” Trinity “Stevie” Wilson (11, J&C), Andre’s daughter, said. “I think knowing the Tuskegee Airmen existed, and what they did protecting all the bombers and the fact they succeeded through all the racism is inspiring.”

Weaver’s life teaching continue throughout his family. His nephew, Dwight Robb, is close to him, and takes many of his teachings to heart. Simple things such as “Think positively,[Dwight]. Don’t think negatively” made an impression on him as a young man.

“He knew me when I was born, and all the way through my life up to now. He gave me a sense of responsibility that stuck with me,” Robb said.

Weaver looks back on his war experience as being beneficial to his life.

“It helped make a man out of me,” Weaver said. “I was glad to see all my brothers and myself come back from the war and we enjoyed one another.”

Despite his age and inability to do most things, Weaver’s legacy lives through his faith and family. He sits down for Thanksgiving with a small Christian family, looking back and telling stories of the plane engines and the time at war, just as a father would.

Weaver has displayed his awards in his home for years. Photo courtesy of Andre Wilson.