You'll remember that I posted a sort of biography of my great uncle who served in the Airborne forces during WW2. Upon further research of my family's military background, I feel I must share another story. One of an older cousin who served in the US Navy in that same war.
His name was Thomas Oxendine, and he was born in 1922 in rural North Carolina. He always loved flying and enlisted in the Navy upon America's involvement. Given his aptitude, they sent him to Naval flight school where he became the first Native American pilot in the U.S Navy.
He served through 33 battles in the Pacific Theater, during which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing a downed pilot under enemy fire.
After the war, he returned home, played football in college, and went back into the Navy for service during the Korean War. He then became a combat flight instructor and test pilot, training new pilots in the use of the F-8 Crusader.
Tom recorded 177 landings on the carrier USS Midway. On visits home he even did flyovers in Navy jets before returning to active service in Vietnam. He later went on to command the Navy's largest basic flight training program, before becoming director of plans for the Navy Department's Office of Information in the Pentagon and director of the public affairs office of the Naval Air Systems Command.
After 30 years of service, he retired with the rank of commander. He then worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He died in Arlington, Virginia in 2010.