American House Honors Our Own Tuskegee Airman

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Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. Washington Ross, an American House Resident

At American House, we’re fortunate to have a whole lot of history behind our doors! We even have our very own Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. Washington Ross. Ross, who lives at American House Southfield Senior Living, always knew he wanted to be a pilot. He was born in Mississippi, the fourth son in a family of five children, and then spent his youth in Kentucky.

In the 1930s, Lt. Col. Ross said there were barnstormers who went around Kentucky, city to city, with their Ford Trimotor planes. One Sunday, these barnstormers came to his city and offered rides on the planes — for a penny per pound! So, Lt. Col. Ross paid his fare, went up in the air and was instantly smitten.

“I told my parents if I ever got the opportunity to be a pilot, I was going to take that opportunity,” Lt. Col. Ross said. And he did.

At American House, we love honoring our residents who are veterans – and we have quite a few!

FLIGHT TRAINING

In 1936, Lt. Col. Ross was a freshman in college and decided to join a program at the university to learn to fly — because the country couldn’t legally train military pilots since it was not in the war yet. He earned his pilot’s license and, although he received word from Washington, D.C. in 1940 that he was to report for the draft, he still had one year left of school and got a deferment — because he didn’t want to go to war.

After completing school, Lt. Col. Ross began teaching and noticed a sign for aviation training over in Tuskegee, Ala. So he went there and got his training.

“I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” he said. He knew that if he was drafted, he didn’t want to be with the infantry on the ground, plowing through the mud all the time. He wanted to fly.

FIGHTER PILOT

In 1943, Lt. Col. Ross graduated and became part of the 332d fighter group — which moved him to Selfridge Air National Guard Base. His first assignment was to patrol the harbor in Naples, Italy. He flew a P-47, an aircraft with eight machine guns on it. He said this was the plane he liked most to fly for actual fighting.

“You didn’t need to use your gun sight,” he said. “If you got on those Germans’ tails, you’d just start shooting and you were bound to hit it.”

In all, Lt. Col. Ross flew 63 missions in World War II. He flew P-40, P-39, P-47, P-51 and B-25 aircraft.

“My aim was to fly my missions and come home,” he said. “I only fired my gun one time.”

He was fighting for 11 months and then the war ended. He spent 20 years in the Air Force and joined the reserves, retiring from the reserves in 1981. During this time, Lt. Col. Ross also taught in the Detroit Public Schools for 29 years until he retired in 1984. Following that, he spent time talking to schools about his experiences in the Air Force and as a fighter pilot.

Lt. Col. Ross remembers there was a high-ranking government official who said, “blacks would never fly,” and when questioned why, said, “because they’re too dumb.” Pressure was put on Congress and the rules changed, and Lt. Col. Ross was able to see his dream of flight fulfilled.

THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

In the early part of the 1970s, Lt. Col. Ross said he and three of his comrades formed the Detroit chapter of the Tuskegee Airman. His wife was also part of the Tuskegee Air Force, Lt. Col. Ross said, as a secretary — because for every pilot, there was at least 10 other people who supported them and composed the group as well.

Our very own Tuskegee Airman had four children — one girl and three boys — with his wife. We are honored to have Lt. Col. Ross at American House, sharing his bit of history with us.

AMERICAN HOUSE

We love to hear the stories our residents at American House have to tell! Call us today at (248) 579-4422 or visit www.americanhouse.com to schedule a tour and talk to our residents yourself.

American House Honored to Remember Our Veterans

It’s been 93 years since Veterans Day was first recognized, to celebrate and thank the millions of men and women who answered the call to serve their country. This upcoming Veterans Day marks another year American House has done what it can to celebrate and thank them too.

“The residents of our community represent decades of service,” explained Bob Gillette, who founded American House in 1979. “To be able to serve them and their families is a privilege and an honor.”

American House Choir performs. Photo Credit: Jason Vaughn/Vaughn Media

Recognizing veterans through song, educating future generations, sharing experiences and giving back to our communities, are just a few of the ways American House knows how to serve our veterans.

Patriotic themes and holidays have always been central to the wellness programs at American House. This year, American House’s patriotic programming focused around the establishment of the American House Choir, which saw its debut at this year’s Flag Day, on June 14.

Lead by conductor Daniel Greig, the choir exhibited their love of music and country by singing patriotic favorites. Throughout the year, members of the choir, many of whom are veterans themselves, have belted out patriotic staples like “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

Bob Gillette, Founder, American House. Photo Credit: Jason Vaughn/Vaughn Media

The debut of the American House Choir program during Flag Day also allowed us time to recognize the veterans of the community, with the help of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 Color Guard, who were kind enough to help us honor our proud residents and combat veterans.

A few weeks after Flag Day, the choir performed for Independence Day, but perhaps the shining moment for the American House Choir would come during Navy Week, on Sept. 7. Their love of music would again be on showcase, when they opened for the likes of the Navy Band, and the Michigan Philharmonic Orchestra, at Metro Park in Harrison Township, Michigan.

In addition to singing during Navy Week, many residents were also able to enjoy the spectacular naval vessels, which sailed and docked along Detroit’s riverfront. Among the vessels were modern ships like the USS Hurricane, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Brig Niagara, which is an exact reconstruction of a wooden-hulled ship that helped win the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie.

Equally as important as celebrating veterans is to empower and educate future generations of Americans. For example, American House resident, invited to speak to the students and staff of Holy Family Elementary, brought his experiences to them. Murphy was a radioman for a Boeing B-17 heavy bomber during World War II.

American House Resident, Alfred, displays a model Boeing B-17. He was a radio man for a B-17 during World War II. Photo Credit: Jason Vaughn/Vaughn Media

United States Veteran’s Administration estimates that the population of WWII veterans will dip below 1.5 million, less than one tenth of the population who served our country during those years. Now is the time to pass on firsthand experience, before it is lost.

“I’ve been blessed to know and work with America’s heroes,” said Gillette. “We’ve been given an opportunity to help the remaining veterans pass on their stories. We can all benefit from their wisdom, courage, and experience.”

In addition to education and life enrichment, American House is committed to giving back to our veterans. In efforts to help the Veterans Support Center in Roseville replenish their pantry, American House East II will be holding a food drive through the duration of November. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off at 18760 13 Mile Rd, Roseville, from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., seven days a week.

The term “veteran” has become synonymous with the word “sacrifice.” Throughout this memorial season, remember to thank a veteran, young or old. Everyone is welcome to visit their local American House, view our Wall of Honor, and thank the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives to ensure our freedoms.

Founded over 30 years ago, the goal of American House is to provide the most rewarding life experiences for each and every resident. To find an American House near you this Veterans Day, please visit http://www.americanhouse.com/ or call (248) 203-1800.