Lieutenant Colonel Marion “Rodge” Rodgers is an incredible 92-year-old gentleman that resides at the Brookdale Place of Colorado Springs in Colorado. Rodge is one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and served his country for 22 years on active duty, 17 years in the Civil Service as the Chief of the Communication branch at NoRAD, and even had the opportunity to spend a year working on the NASA project Apollo 13 as a program manager. Rodge’s wish of a lifetime was to have the opportunity to fly in the plane that he had completed all of his missions in – a P-51 Mustang.
During WWII, Rodge was stationed in Ramitelli, Italy and was a part of the 99th Fighter Squadron. According to Rodge, he had the opportunity to fly 68 combat missions in Germany. The missions that were flown were reconnaissance missions, and occasionally they went out on strafing missions. His purpose in these missions was to escort the United States Bomber planes to their target. He explained that once he finished one mission, he had more confidence that he would return from the next mission. Rodge said the men flew nearly every day, and that these missions created a stronger spiritual connection for him with his plane and comrades. Rodge was eventually promoted to serve as the Commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron, and served in this role for a little over a year.
Having served as the very last Commander of the 99th Squadron, Rodge formally retired from the Air Force in 1983. He spent 30 years as the sole host of KKTV’s Involvement Series, where he had the opportunity to interview civil rights leaders and local talent. Rodge was the head of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee for several years, and continued on to serve as the Chairman for the Task Force on Metropolitan Government. Rodge and his wife, Suzanne, were also very involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) both in the Colorado Springs area, as well as nationally. Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale were honored to be able to fulfill Rodge’s wish to fly in a P-51 Mustang. Rodge and his companion, Robert, traveled to Camarillo, CA to fulfill this wish. The Commemorative Air Force Southern California Wings, helped put together a well-deserved recognition party dedicated to Rodge’s service. After Rodge took his flight, he stated, “I have to live a lot longer so I can remember this for a long time.”
Photography by: Eric VanGuilder