WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- About 330 Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black force of elite World War II U.S. pilots, have been invited to the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, officials say.
The highly decorated pilots helped break the color barrier in the U.S. military with their heroic actions in the conflict. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who will be sworn into office Jan. 20, has praised them, saying last year, "My career in public service was made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail blazed," The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Their inauguration invitation was extended Tuesday by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said Howard Gantman, staff director for the committee.
"They served honorably on behalf of our country, helped fight the battle to overcome racial barriers and because of the historic nature of this election, we thought they deserved to be there," he told the Times.
"I didn't believe I'd live long enough to see something like this," said Lt. Col. Charles Lane Jr., 83, of Omaha, a retired Tuskegee fighter pilot. "I would love to be there, I would love to be able to see it with my own eyes," but added a "physical limitation" may make it impossible.