Columbia College Military Appreciation Day recognizes service members

Military Appreciation Day at Columbia College on Thursday honored Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee, an alumnus of Tuskegee Airman and Columbia College, died in January at age 102.

Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, an online student at Columbia College, killed by a suicide bomber on August 26, 2001 while checking women and children fleeing the Taliban at Kabul airport in Afghanistan. She received her degree posthumously last month.

There were about 100 people in the event center inside New Hall, including 40 on Zoom, university spokesman Sam Fleury said.

Luke Offield played the national anthem on electric guitar in a style reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Tuskegee Airman Brigadier General Charles E. McGee was honored Thursday during Columbia College Military Appreciation Day at the New Hall Event Center.

Retired Air Force Col. Mike Randerson, a Columbia College board member, shared his memories of McGee.

Beginning in 1942 in what was then the Army Air Corps, McGee had a 30-year career as an airman, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

He flew 409 combat missions, Randerson said.

“He was a living Air Force legend,” he said.

Besides the three wars abroad, Randerson said another war McGee fought was at home. It was the war against bigotry, intolerance, disrespect and injustice.

“His wartime success did not easily translate into acceptance,” Randerson said.

McGee was routinely denied rooms in hotels and entry to restaurants, Randerson said. He could not have his hair cut on military bases and was not served at officers’ clubs.

He usually had to find accommodation several miles from the bases where he served, Randerson said.

He made changes when he had the power to do so, but otherwise worked behind the scenes to slowly make changes, Randerson said.

McGee made frequent visits to Columbia for Columbia College events, including Military Appreciation Day and the Honoring Veterans Air Show, Randerson said.

“The most accomplished person I know was also the most humble,” Randerson said. “He was really interested in the people he met along the way.”

He believed that education is the foundation of our country, Randerson said.

Missy Montgomery, Senior Director of Philanthropy at Columbia College, announced the creation of the Johanny Rosario Pichardo Endowment Scholarship. It was created with a $50,000 donation from the Veterans United Foundation.

Several recipients of military scholarships have been announced. The farthest was that of online student Brooke McWilliams, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She specializes in business.

Roger McKinney is the Tribune’s educational reporter. You can reach him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He’s on Twitter at @rmckinney9.

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