A Little Good News: Joseph Gomer

By KBJR News 1

February 10, 2011 Updated Feb 10, 2011 at 9:00 AM CDT

With his head in the clouds, Joseph Gomer spent his youth dreaming about flying.

As a young adult, Joe worked to make his dream a reality as he ended up getting his pilot's license before his driver's license.

"I shoved the throttle forward and those 1,200 horse power started kicking and all of a sudden I'm flying all by myself," says Joseph.

After attending Ellsworth Community College, Joe made the decision to enlist in the military.

Little did he know that he would end up fighting in World War Two.

The war took Joe across the world, but his real battle was on his own home soil.

It was in the army that Joe got his first taste of discrimination through segregation.

"To go to breakfast we were ushered to the end of the car and then they pulled the curtain on us. Then I got up and pulled the curtain two or three times and of course they got up and pulled it back," says Joseph.

Segregation was a shock to Joseph, who had grown up fully assimilated in his small home town of Iowa Falls.

After enlisting, Joseph was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama to join the first group of black military airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen faced a lot of animosity because, at that time, many people thought African American men lacked the skills to fly a plane.

"The Tuskegee Airmen went on to show Americans and African Americans and everyone that you can overcome obstacles and do what you want to do and challenge yourself to create newer heights," says Carl Crawford with Lake Superior College.

Joseph selflessly put his life on the line and fought for his country, even though he wasn't always treated with respect.

"We trained segregated, we fought segregated, and we came back to segregation. We didn't come back as heroes. We came back as combat veterans black," says Joseph.

Joseph spent 22 years in the military serving his country, all the while, trying to break the barriers of racism.

Despite what he faced, Joe Gomer says he is grateful to have witnessed the day desegregation became a reality.

"We went from segregation to integration but integration is a continuing thing. And we have come a long ways. Even in Duluth we have come a long way," says Joseph.

Although we still have a journey ahead of us, Joseph reminds people that no matter who you are, or where you're from, it should not reflect where you're going.

In 2007, Joseph Gomer attended a ceremony in which President George W. Bush presented the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor.

At the age of 90, Joseph lives in Duluth with his wife and has two adult children.