RANTOUL — The presence of a couple of original Tuskegee Airmen, a flyover and the renaming of a village street in their honor are on the tap for an event next month to honor the famed World War II aviation fighters.
Vallorie O’Neil, recording secretary for the Chicago DODO chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, said each March 22 the life and legacy of the airmen are celebrated by mayoral proclamation in Chicago. Interstate 57 from 99th and Halstead on the south side of Chicago to just north of Rantoul was renamed Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail.
O’Neil came up with the idea to do a cruise from Chicago to Rantoul that Sunday to mark the day honoring the airmen.
“Ken Rapier, our president, went to Rantoul and talked with the (village administrator), and they were completely on board with it. They embraced the entire idea,” O’Neil said.
The caravan will leave Chicago about 8 a.m., escorted by state troopers. A caravan of the airmen’s vehicles, escorted by police will come into town for the public to see and then will drive through the former Chanute Air Force Base before stopping at Lincoln’s Challenge Academy.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said a private reception as well as a public one will be held. A private lunch will be provided for the airmen.
There is also the possibility of a flyover.
The village will also rename Textron Street, Tuskegee Drive. The village currently has a Tuskegee Avenue, but that street is being vacated due to an economic development project.
O’Neil said she has asked Illinois State Napoleon Harris to ask Gov. J.B. Pritzker to be on hand.
“If we’re blessed, and if our airmen are physically capable of doing it, we figure on having three original Tuskegee Airmen with us,” O’Neil said. “I feel so blessed that Rantoul embraced my dream to do this. This is where our heroes started.”