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Honored by this special encounter

By Mike Duman

On Thursday evening, the Suffolk & Vicinity Youth STEM Academy 2017 Summer Road Tour conducted its closing event at the Suffolk Executive Offices. Participants were presented with certificates acknowledging their participation.

The program was a huge success, and I want to commend Simone Thomas for taking the initiative to organize this worthy endeavor. It provided a valuable opportunity for students to be exposed to educational venues they may not have been able to experience.

This would not have been possible without the assistance of Greater Oakland-Chuckatuck Civic League President Opal McCleod, food sponsor Chick-fil-A and the participation and support of all the parents and students.

An added bonus was the attendance of Dr. Harry Quinton, an original Tuskegee Airman. Dr. Quinton shared his life experiences, including his time serving during World War II.
I cannot think of a time I have been more impressed or moved by any individual. He chose to volunteer at the age of 17 to support and defend his country. He did so in spite of the hardships he had to endure due to his race.

He and his comrades had to fight just to be able to fight for their country. They continually had to prove they were worthy and equal in ability to their white counterparts.
Dr. Quinton’s attitude was uplifting. He expressed no animosity and made no excuses for his plight. He was determined to persevere in spite of it.

Dr. Quinton, armed with knowledge, self esteem and a desire to succeed, accomplished a great deal in his lifetime.

Sergeant Quinton and the other Original Tuskegee Airmen were cited for the Congressional Gold Medal at the US Capital on March 29, 2007. He attended Plattsburg College and Long Island University and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting.

Dr. Quinton retired from the United States Treasury Department after working as an agent for a number of years.

At the conclusion of the STEM program, I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Dr. Quinton. For close to two hours, I had a conversation with this gentleman about his time in the military and thereafter. It is an experience I will always cherish.

I have enormous respect for the “Greatest Generation.” They were patriotic, loyal, took responsibility for their actions, worked hard, embraced challenge and knew the meaning of sacrifice.

Dr. Quinton is truly one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation, and I am a better person for knowing him.

Mike Duman is a member of the Suffolk City Council. Email him at mike.duman@mikeduman.com.