A “Wish of a Lifetime” will be delivered during a special visit honoring one of the last remaining Tuskegee Airmen of World War II at the Commemorative Air Force Southern California Wing Air Museum based at Camarillo Airport, Saturday Sept. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For several years, 93 year old Lt. Col. Marion “Rodge” Rodgers, USAF (Ret.) has talked about wanting to climb back into a P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft just like he flew during World War II on 69 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.
The “Wish of a Lifetime” Foundation in Denver, Colo. teamed up with Brookdale Senior Living Inc. to make it happen, contacting the CAF So Cal Wing to see if the air museum’s flyable restored P-51 Mustang, Man of War, would be available. This P-51 aircraft participates in air shows each year throughout the Western states including Colorado Springs, where Rogers resides. Rodge and his caregiver will be flying to Southern California for the scheduled Saturday P-51 flight and planned honors at the Wing, starting at 10 a.m. Several other Tuskegee Airmen in the Greater Los Angeles area may attend, as well as local dignitaries at the Wing ceremony.
“We invite the public to join us at Tuskegee Airmen Day at the Wing’s Air Museum,” said Steve Barber, Senior, Wing Leader. “They will see this distinguished veteran, hear about the history of the World War II group and can give the veteran a salute for his military service when he climbs aboard the P-51 fighter and takes off on what may be his last opportunity to fly in that aircraft again,” he said.
During World War II. Rogers was stationed in Ramitelli, Italy, part of the 99th Fighter Squadron, flying the P-51 on nearly daily reconnaissance missions and escorting U.S. bomber aircraft to their target. When the group returned to the states, he was promoted to serve as Commander of the squadron. In 1965 he retired from active duty. He then spent a year working on the NASA Apollo 12 project as a program manager.
Returning a second time to the U.S. Air Force, Rogers completed 17 years of Civil Service as Chief of the Communications Branch at the North American Air Defense Command Facility in Colorado. He formally retired from the Air Force in 1983. Television then caught his eye and he spent 30 years as the sole host of a Colorado Springs local television public affairs program.
The Southern California Wing and Air Museum is located at 455 Aviation Dr., at Camarillo Airport, 93010. Individuals wishing more information about the Wing’s Ride Along Program, or to book a backseat ride in one of the Wing’s aircraft can call 805-482-0064. Museum hours are 10 am to 4pm daily Tuesday through Sunday. The Museum is closed every Monday.