Veterans featured in 'Red Tails' film recognized at premiere

SPRINGDALE, OH (FOX19) - A pair of local veterans whose lives are featured in the new film Red Tails were recognized Thursday night during a special premiere.

WWII vets John Leahr and Herb Heilbrun are among those depicted in George Lucas' latest film, which is being released in theaters nationwide this weekend.

Leahr and Heilbrun were special guests during a premiere at the Springdale 18 Cinema on Thursday evening.

Leahr and Heilbrun are the subjects of the book Black and White Airmen, which is the story of their lifelong friendship. The pair grew up in the same Avondale neighborhood and both served as pilots in World War II. Heilbrun flew an Army Air Forces B-17 and Leahr was a Tuskegee Airman who flew B-51 fighter planes.

"If it hadn't been for people like the Tuskegee airmen to protect me, I would be some place, what's left of me in the ocean or the Alps," said Heilbrun.

"Sometimes during the war you were berated, hated and discriminated against, even though you were fighting and dying for your country, said Leahr. "It means a whole lot now that we've been accepted in this country."

The pair was awarded the Harvard  Foundation Medal for their distinguished military service and unprecedented contributions to improve intercultural and racial relations.

Red Tails is based on the true events of the Tuskegee Airmen and their heroic contributions during WWII.

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