TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - In World War II, even the Armed Forces were segregated. A legendary Army Air Corps called the Tuskegee Airmen banded black pilots and crew together to fight for America.
Nearly 20,000 started that journey, and estimates say less than 200 are still alive today.
92-year-old Irving Green was one of the original Red Tails. As an airplane mechanic, he fought for a country that often, didn't treat him as an equal.
"He went to go eat, and they would not serve him," Green's son Milo said. "So his fellow soldiers that were with him, would not eat. Or know whose food belonged to who.
The man they called Spud Green had to battle - not only the Germans - but for his own dignity and respect.
"It was very important to have pride in who you were. And to be able to stand, and to be able to go against the odds that were against us as a people," Milo Green said.
Milo will eulogize his father tomorrow. Irving also played a big role for the rest of the family.
"He practically raised me... I was like another child to him," his niece Maria Bryant said.
"He protected me as the baby, he wouldn't let nobody do nothing to me," Milo Green said. "Even though I deserved what they wanted to do to me."
Spud Green raised nine children. He also left behind 27 grand kids and 35 great grandchildren. Before he started a family, he needed to find work.
"Being in Toledo, there were certain places that would not hire him, because of his ethnicity or race," Milo Green said.
After his discharge, he lost touch with other Airmen.
"He never did get the chance to go be with the other Tuskegee Airmen, when they would go to other places," Bryant said.
But he always had family.
"He was just my everything. He was everything to me," Bryant said.
After a celebratory funeral tomorrow, starting at noon in the Old West End, Green will be interred at Woodlawn Cemetary, complete with an honor guard.