‘Life has been a blessing’: Downtown KC Airport terminal renamed in honor of Tuskegee airman

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A century of public service shouldn’t go without recognition.

One of the metro’s most decorated military veterans received a unique honor on Tuesday, adding to the legacy of military heroism and public service he’s built over the last 101 years.

Ret. U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Charles McGee’s name will now grave the general aviation terminal at the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport. 

McGee, who will turn 102 years young in December, flew 409 combat missions as a military fighter pilot during three overseas conflicts, including World War II and wars in Korea and Vietnam. McGee even managed the airport for a period of time, working as a public servant in his younger years.

“I don’t have the words to thank you,” BG McGee told a crowd of well-wishers on Tuesday. “Life has been a blessing. I could say — why me? Who me? Who picked my name? I don’t know, but I do know who to give thanks to.”

A plaque featuring a photo of McGee in his military days will be permanent at the terminal. The Federal Aviation Administration also surprised McGee, naming three navigational waypoints in his honor, meaning his legacy will continue to guide pilots in the Kansas City area.

“Your life, your perseverance, and your resilience are inspirational to so many of us on so many levels. You epitomize the core values we all strive to live up to every day,” Steve Dixon, a spokesperson for the FAA, said.

“As one kid who grew up seeing what you all did, I say thank you,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “We look forward to telling many more generations about the greatness that exists in our country, the great black war heroes we have in this country.”

While this honor acknowledges McGee’s past, the man himself advises us to look ahead.

McGee took a moment to discuss future generations, advising all of us to deliver lessons based in honor and public service. Appropriately enough, McGee’s upcoming birthday will be on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, which is generally associated with patriotic cases and military reverence.

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