DALLAS — Three World War II vintage planes thundered over the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Tuesday. Old men squinted up at the sky.
They move now with machines that rattle instead of roar; some leaning on walkers as they came to say goodbye to a Tuskegee Airman who is no longer earthbound.
Capt. Claude Platte died September 27 at the age of 92. In black-and-white photos, he cuts a dashing figure with his leather helmet and flight goggles.
Platte taught more than 300 African-American pilots to fly. The Tuskegee Airmen went on to protect countless U.S. bomber crews, defeat German pilots with extraordinary success, and return home to enrich an America not yet ready to accept civil rights.
Erma Platte, Claude's widow, accepted the folded American flag, and gave thanks for the military interment honors her husband earned in so many ways.
"I knew he was loved, but not like this," she said. "I am very humbled."
Church friends, veterans and Patriot Guard Riders gathered at the cemetery. Three surviving Tuskegee Airmen attended the service, including Robert McDaniel.
"I knew him personally, because he also came out of the distinguished I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth," McDaniel said.
After I.M. Terrell, Platte studied mechanical engineering and aeronautics at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He served in the Air Force until 1965, retired from Bell Helicopter, and — especially in his later years — spread the story of the Airmen.
"He was a very quiet and humble man, but he loved his country,” Erma Platte said. "And he dearly loved to fly."