DAYTON — Charles Feaster couldn’t help but pump his arms as he stepped onto the Fifth Third Field grass for a special ceremony Sunday.
“It was very, very exciting,” the Xenia resident said. “I felt a nice warm feeling.”
Feaster was being recognized as part of the Ford Honor Them program, which provides veterans in the Miami Valley an opportunity to have their service celebrated between innings of a Dayton Dragons baseball game.
A video telling Feaster’s story was played on the scoreboard while the sellout crowd gave Feaster a lengthy standing ovation. He responded with smiles, waves and fist pumps.
“It was so encouraging,” he said. “That’s a good feeling.”
While the between inning break was about Feaster — and family and friends who assembled in front of the Dragons dugout with him — he couldn’t help but reminisce about his days as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. Specifically, he was remembering the nearly 70 other airmen.
“I think about those who didn’t come back with me,” Feaster said. “And I still miss them.”
Feaster was a student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1940, when he had the opportunity to join the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later called the 99th Fighter Squadron. He qualified as a technician and flight engineer in the 99th Fighter Squadron, one of only six people who passed the exam to hold that position.
The 99th Fighter Squadron distinguished itself during World War II in the campaigns in North Africa, Italy, northern and southern France, the Rhineland and the Balkins. Feaster’s planes were responsible for tactical fighting — wiping out enemy aircraft to get his men safely to their next location.
“We knocked down nearly 400 German planes,” Feaster said.
He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 for his role in the war and he also received the presidential gold coin from President Barack Obama last year at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus.
“Getting the gold coin is something I will never forget,” Feaster previously said. And Feaster remembered exactly what the president said to him as he handed him that gold medal: “Feaster, you are a path breaker.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.