MADISON, Wis. (1/25/12)--A credit union executive has a connection with the subject of a film released Friday. "Red Tails" tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American aviators in the U.S. armed forces.
Dan Wagner, chief financial officer and manager of Lisbon Farmer Union CU, Lisbon, N.D., built The Red Tail Guitar to commemorate the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American aviators in the U.S. armed forces. (Photo provided by Dan Wagner)
Before the Tuskegee Airmen battled the Germans in the European theatre, they had to overcome racism within their own military.
Long before "Red Tails" hit theatres, Dan Wagner, chief financial officer and manager of Lisbon Farmer Union CU, Lisbon, N.D., helped share the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, who officially were the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Wagner designed and built the custom "Red Tail Guitar" in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. The guitar includes parts from the P-51 Mustang, the aircraft most commonly associated with Tuskegee Airmen.
"I want everything I build to mean something," said Wagner, who has built several guitars. "This guitar tells the story about overcoming adversity."
The parts for the guitar were supplied by the Commemorative Air Force, an organization founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition combat aircraft which were flown by U.S. military services, and aircraft of other nations.
In 2009, he presented the guitar to the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles Program with Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions for the U.S. Army Air Corps.
EAA Young Eagles is a program that provides children ages 8 to 17 an opportunity to fly in a general aviation airplane.
The program is special to Wagner. He wanted to learn to fly as a child, but couldn't afford lessons. "It's a program that literally makes dreams come true," Wagner said.
The Red Tail Guitar was auctioned for $5,000. The money was used to sponsor Young Eagle memberships. At $10 per membership, the money will sponsor 500 Young Eagle memberships, Wagner said.
Wagner said building the Red Tail Guitar, telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and, more specifically, working with groups such as EAA and the Commemorative Air Force, reminded him of his daily work with credit unions.
"Every step of the way, somebody was willing to help," Wagner said. "That's what made the experience so gratifying."