Tuskegee Airmen Clarence Dart had been honored by two U.S. Presidents but never by his city or countyuntil now.
Surrounded by eight of his nine children, his wife of 61 years and numerous grandchildren and friends, the 90-year-old veteran was bestowed several honors and citations by the New York State Senate, Assembly, Saratoga County and Saratoga Springs at Wesley Health Care Center on Wednesday, April 20.
Today is a very special day for Saratoga County. It is the first recognition of an African American veteran that we have honored since having our program," said Mary Ann Johnson, chair of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Veterans Committee.
Dart was part of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, a group of pilots who weren't allowed to train or fight alongside their white counterparts. Dart took part in combat missions in the North African and Italian theaters during WWII, spending 14 months flying B40 fighter planes. He flew 95 missions, including dive bombing, striking enemy targets and escorting and protecting U.S. bomber planes, being shot down twice by enemy fire over Italy.
That fearless service to his country earned him the flying cross with four oak leaf clusters, the air medal, the victory medal, the American defense medal, two purple hearts, the Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush and an invitation to President Barack Obama's inauguration.
"It is truly a very humbling experience to be here in the presence of a hero such as Mr. Dart and for his service we will be forever grateful," said Thomas N. Wood, Supervisor of the Town of Saratoga.
Wood presented Dart with a proclamation from Saratoga County for preserving the "freedom, security and prosperity" of Americans through "dedication and bravery." He also gave Dart the WWII Veterans Medal in recognition and appreciation of his service.