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Tuskegee Airmen monument cleared for takeoff

| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 12:08 a.m.
Local historian John Kroeck and Crescendo Group Consultants, Inc. President Rich Dieter unveil the new Tuskegee Airmen legacy monument at a reception at the Edgeworth Club Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
People mingle near a Tuskegee Airman statue on display during a reception at the Edgeworth Club Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Montie and Timothy McCray of Penn Hills look at scrapbooks dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen during a reception at the Edgeworth Club held to unveil a new design for a Tuskegee Airmen monument to be erected at Sewickley Cemetery Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region founder and chairman Regis Bobonis Sr. (center) chats with attendees during a reception to unveil a new design of a monument to be erected at Sewickley Cemetery Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

After four years in the making, construction of a Tuskegee Airmen legacy monument will begin this month in Sewickley Cemetery.

Crescendo Group Consultants Inc. President Rich Dieter made the announcement at a reception Sunday to open the public phase of a campaign to raise money for the monument. It will honor the large number of Western Pennsylvanians who were affiliated with the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black Army Air Corps unit.

Dieter said $99,000 has been raised, but $175,000 is needed to complete the monument.

Still, construction on phase one of the project is scheduled to begin in two weeks.

“We hope to have the first phase totally completed by the end of January,” Dieter said, adding that the monument should be completed by July 2013.

Regis Bobonis Sr., founder and chairman of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial of the Greater Pittsburgh Region Inc., said he is excited to see planning and work come to fruition.

“It's very overwhelming, and I'm very gratified and thankful,” Bobonis said.

Over the past several years, plans for the Tuskegee Airmen memorial have undergone many changes. Bobonis said the memorial had to be completely redesigned because of the increased number of names to include on the memorial's monuments.

The latest design presented Sunday features a plaza with four mourning benches, a monument with a granite Red Tail airplane, another featuring a Tuskegee Airmen mural and two granite towers boasting names of all 96 pilots, navigators, bombardiers and support crew members from the region.

The memorial will include quick response codes visitors with smartphones can scan to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and the people included on the monument.

John Dioguardi, president of Rome Monuments of Rochester, which will build the Tuskegee memorial, said he hopes it will help educate visitors.

“(It's about) making sure people understood where we were at one time and how we never want to go back there again,” he said.

“What I think would be the optimum moment is when a busload of students get off the bus and interact in that plaza area among that memorial.

“If people start to realize that (the Tuskegee Airmen) not only fought the Germans, they fought prejudice. Prejudice like nobody could believe,” Dioguardi said.

“That's a tough war.”

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