LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Lt. Col. James Harvey III is a symbol of pure gut and determination. His service for the U.S military broke down barriers. He was a Tuskegee Airman. He just turned 95.
During WWII, black pilots flew for the U.S. military for the first time. It was known as the Tuskegee experiment. It's widely known now that some of the top-level brass didn't believe black people could fly.
"They made sure they had a wash-out rate of 75 percent or higher," Harvey said. "Didn't have anything to do with our flying. They'd wash us out."
Harvey was one of the proud airmen who made it. Soon after his graduation, though, the war in Europe came to an end. During the Korean War, Harvey flew 126 missions.
"They said we couldn’t do it, that we did not have the mentality to fly aircraft or operate heavy machinery," said Harvey. "We were nothing. We proved them wrong."
Amidst the crowd of proud family and friends at Harvey's 95th birthday was Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. He presented Harvey with Denver's highest honor, the city coin.
"You're awesome. Thank you," Mayor Hancock said as he patted Harvey on the shoulder.
Harvey knew he had to be the best so many years ago so future generations would treat black people equally.
"Everybody should be included in everything," Harvey said. "No one is better than anyone else. We’re all the same."
In 2007, former President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.