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100-year-old Tuskegee Airman promoted to Brigadier General

Charles McGee said his honorary promotion is hardly about him, but rather inspiring those to persevere.

BETHESDA, Md. — At 100 years old, Charles McGee has a new accomplishment to add to the wall of his Bethesda home.

"I hope I’m deserving," McGee, who served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman, said. 

On Dec. 20, McGee was promoted to Brigadier General when President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 into law.  

"It’s wonderful to be recognized for service and what it means to serve," McGee said. "Certainly to receive that honorary rank is very meaningful."

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McGee protected the Eighth Air Force bombers as part of the famous "Red Tails Squadron." Back then, white pilots were sent home after 50 missions. But McGee flew 136 missions over Nazi Europe. He then served in Korea and Vietnam, before retiring from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Colonel.

Longtime friend Vincent Mickens -- who says he’s still getting used to calling McGee "General" -- calls the promotion more than simply honorary. He believes that McGee is one of only three Tuskegee Airmen to achieve such a rank. Mickens calls it icing on the cake for McGee, who turned 100 on Dec. 7 and celebrated with a flight in a private jet.

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"It should be a great example," Mickens said. "Stay focused on what you want to accomplish and you can accomplish truly anything."

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The centenarian’s family is anticipating a ceremony sometime next month. McGee insists his promotion is about promoting others sticking to their dreams.

"We had folks tell us you can’t do something," McGee said. "I think this kind of sweeps that away. Realize that you can."

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