Local students learn about Freeman Field, Tuskegee Airmen

Once the movies started, silence fell upon the traveling exhibit trailer and all eyes were on the panoramic screens.

Local students seated on two separate sets of bleachers focused all of their attention on a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen and then one about the Women Airforce Service Pilots in World War II.

As they walked down the steps out of the Rise Above trailer, they received a souvenir red dog tag on a chain with “Rise Above Red Tail” on the front and “Aim high, believe in yourself, use your brain, never quit, be ready to go and expect to win” on the back.

Then they made their way to the nearby Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Plaza at Freeman Municipal Airport in Seymour to check out the two newly erected statues — one of an officer and one of a pilot.

The field trip wrapped up by visiting the Freeman Army Airfield Museum’s two buildings to watch a video about the history of the airport and check out the photos and various types of artifacts and memorabilia on display from when it served as a U.S. Army Air Forces base during World War II.

As students wrapped up their field trip at the museum, they took pictures to remember this opportunity to reflect on history.

While the Rise Above trailer was only there last week, the students were excited to learn they could return to the museum between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays to spend more time browsing all that it offers.

“It’s to teach us history and try not to repeat it,” Medora sixth-grader Maci White said. “I’m telling my family about this.”

Classmate Jairston Slick said it was fun to learn about it all during the field trip Thursday, and he looks forward to telling other people what he learned.

He said he liked the life-size statues and took a lot of pictures, and he was amazed by the movies in the trailer, especially the one about the Tuskegee Airmen.

“I actually heard about them a lot, but I never visualized them on video,” Slick said. “I liked it. It had the speakers, the whole screen. I liked to be able to see the whole thing.”

The three screens inside provided a wide view of the engaging movies.

“It was fascinating. Plus, it felt like you were there,” sixth-grader Carlie Turner said.

White said it was interesting to learn the Tuskegee Airmen and WASPs served in Seymour nearly 80 years ago. She and Turner both said they have family members who have served in the military.

“It was really, really cool some of them served here,” White said. “I thought that was cool how it’s near us.”

Medora Junior-Senior High School social studies teacher Reuben Nehrt said it was great for the students to learn about Freeman Field’s role in World War II.

“It was groundbreaking in a number of ways,” he said. “First of all, for them to be able to hear that we live in an area where there isn’t a big population of African-Americans and then to find out that back in the ’40s, there was still some segregation and different things going on, to hear that it went on in Indiana, which was a northern state, I thought that was eye-opening for them. Then also how women were treated, as well. This went on just miles away from where we live.”

Nehrt said starting the tour with the movies was really neat.

“I was glad that they got to experience that kind of stuff. It was very well done,” he said.

Then checking out the museum buildings, he enjoyed seeing the students absorb it all, including the 1942 Ford firetruck, airplane simulators, large pieces of aircraft dug up over the years and weapons.

“Being able to actually touch the things and see them sit in the seat of the firetruck, the horn, everything, I thought it was incredible this stuff is all out here,” Nehrt said. “For them to hear all of this stuff, I think, was just fantastic.”