Lt. Col. Luke Weathers, Jr. was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday morning. Weathers served the country as a fighter pilot during World War II, a member of the now-famous Tuskegee Airmen. These African American pilots fought for freedom, but were subject to Jim Crow's segregation and racism despite their sacrifice and service.
Weathers was buried with full military honors, including a horse-drawn caisson, an escort party, a casket team, a firing party, the U.S. Air Force Band and a bugler. Four F-16s jets flew over the cemetery shortly before the ceremony.
According to The Arizona Republic, Weathers, 90, died in Tucson in October. The Grenada, Miss. native was one of 450 Tuskegee Airmen who flew missions over North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France during the Second World War between 1942 and 1945.
According to Chris Bucholtz's “332nd Fighter Group-Tuskegee Airmen,” Weathers is responsible for two-and-a-half aerial kills during the war.
During an escort mission of B-24 bombers, eight German Bf-109s attacked Weathers and two other Tuskegee Airmen in their P-51 mustangs. According to the book, Weathers charged into the formation of the German planes firing shots and hitting one of them. Once Weathers saw the German plane smoking from his position at 24,000 feet, he followed the descending, damaged plane to about 1,000-feet and saw it crash into the ground.
“It looked like they had me, so I decided to follow the falling aero plane,” Weathers is quoted in the book, describing his second kill of the day when he caused a German plane to slam into a mountainside.
“I made a dive, came out of it and looked back. One aeroplane was still on my tail. I was headed back towards Germany, but I didn’t want to go that way. I chopped my throttle and dropped my flaps to cut my speed quickly. The fellow overshot me, and this left me on his tail. He was in range, so I opened fire.”
Felllow , 91, of Bethesda, Md., called Weathers a "lifelong friend." The two completed pilot training and served overseas together.
"He was a very positive guy...always look at the good side of things," said McGee, who attended the service at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday. McGee estimates less than a quarter of the Airmen are still living.
"Everyday, you hear about someone passing on," he said.
Weathers' widow, Jacqueline Weathers, said her husband never expressed negativity about his experiences serving in the Air Force, despite the obvious inequalities. The Tuskegee Airmen served the country with second-hand equipment and second-hand planes. Segregation followed the men overseas, too. Black servicemembers were stationed at a separate base.
"I never saw the bitterness or the anger," said Jacqueline Weathers, of Hyattsville, Md. "He lived to see a lot of changes."
Weathers is survived by five children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
His grandson, Anthony Boyce II of Memphis, said his grandfather never bragged about his service with the Tuskegee Airmen. But he was a strict man who tried to instill morals and military values to his family.
"He always said if you want to do something right, you have to do it the right way," Boyce said.