Nearly 75 years after his fighter plane crashed in Austria, Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a Tuskegee Airman, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday as four Air Force jets roared overhead and his daughter and grandchildren looked on.
A stiff wind rustled nearby magnolia trees as the mourners sat before his silver casket, and his 76-year-old daughter, Marla L. Andrews, received a folded flag from an Army general who knelt before her.
Earlier, at a church service, a minister likened Dickson to the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, whose bones were carried by his people to the Promised Land from the foreign realm where he died.
“Joseph served his people on foreign soil,” said the Rev. Jerry Sanders of Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, N.J. “What we do for Captain Dickson today is what they did for Joseph in the long ago.”
It was a solemn farewell for a daughter who cherished a father she never knew — she was 2 when he died — and who lamented the life she might have had. “I don’t think I would have felt so empty and so alone,” Andrews, of East Orange, N.J., said Thursday.
“I heard many people say that he was very friendly, he was very warm, he was extremely personable,” she said. “I just had the feeling that if he would have lived, it would have been so different. “But he didn’t,” she said.
So she strove to raise her children so her father would have been proud of them. And although there were painful times, “I just have to thank God that he got me through as far as he has,” she said.
In July, the Defense Department announced that it had accounted for Dickson, who was among more than two dozen black aviators known as Tuskegee Airmen who were still missing from World War II.
They were African American men from all over the country who fought racism and oppression at home and enemy pilots and antiaircraft gunners overseas.
More than 400 served in combat, flying patrol and strafing missions and escorting bombers from bases in North Africa and Italy. The tail sections of their fighter planes were painted a distinctive red.
During the service in the Old Post Chapel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Sanders spoke of the Israelites’ escape from slavery, comparing it to men such as Dickson helping African Americans on their exodus from bondage.
“Remember your future is based on my past,” Sanders said Joseph reminded his people. “Where you’re going has something to with where I’ve been,” he said. “The bones of Joseph, like the bones of Captain Dickson, tell a story.”
During a dig in 2017 at the crash site, near Hohenthurn, Austria, a ring belonging to Dickson was found in the dirt by a University of New Orleans graduate student, Titus Firmin.