The Bayonet

Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2016

Tuskegee Airman promotes granddaughter to major

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Newly promoted Maj. Monica Flowers, who works as a nurse at Fort Benning's Martin Army Community Hospital, had the pleasure of pinning on her new rank July 11 and expanding her family's rich military heritage all in one ceremony.

Her grandfather, Master Sgt. James Sheppard, a Tuskegee Airman, World War II veteran, and Congressional Gold Medal Recipient promoted her. The ceremony was held at Martin Army Community Hospital, with family in attendance.

Flowers' family military history runs deep, as both of her grandfathers served honorably in the Army, one in the Infantry and the other in the 332nd Fighter Squadron, better known as the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Her father also enlisted in the Army, and fought valiantly in the Vietnam War. Flowers joined the Army Nurse Corps on May 10, 2006.

"I am proud to see my granddaughter follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfathers. It is continuing a legacy in our family," said Sheppard. "We have always supported her in her military career."

Sheppard joined the Army Air Corps in 1942, and became an aviation mechanic. He was assigned to the 100th and 301st Fighter Squadron, based at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, where he eventually rose to the rank of staff sergeant. Before joining the service he knew there were other African-American civilian pilots flying as mercenaries for other countries before the United States entered World War II. He knew it was possible for African-Americans to succeed as pilots.

"Mrs. (Eleanor) Roosevelt, the president's wife, was a big supporter of integrating blacks in the military. When she visited (Tuskegee AAF), she asked if she could fly with a black pilot," he said. "The president ordered the military to create an all-black fighter squadron. There were about 20 of us at first, but it worked so well, they created an entire squadron."

He also served as a U.S. Air Force Reservist for 10 years, where his experience and work as a flight engineer with the 436th Troop Carrier Wing earned him the rank of master sergeant.

Flowers said she was excited about having her grandfather and the rest of her family members present for her promotion. "I am humbled and honored to be able to have my grandfather here at my promotion ceremony today. Our family legacy will continue and I am proud of my grandfather. He is a strong man and leaves a legacy of honor," she said.

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