Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Friend. Robert served from 1942 to 1972.
Robert always dreamed of flying. He tried to enlist in the service in the 1930s, but was unable to as African-Americans were not allowed in the Army Air Corps at that time. In 1939, while attending Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, he joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program and earned his private license to fly. In 1942, he was able to enlist in the Army Air Forces and went to Tuskegee Institute for training. He was sent overseas the next year and was assigned to the Tuskegee Airmen’s distinguished 322nd Fighter Group. Robert flew as wingman to the commander of this group and served as Combat Operations Officer. In this position, he planned and organized air missions. He flew 142 missions during World War II.
After the war, Robert did not want to stop flying and continued his service with the Air Force. He eventually became Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, overseeing missiles, such as the Titan and the Atlas. He moved on to become the Foreign Technology Program Director, where he monitored technological developments of other countries. He also served as the director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, which was tasked with investigating mysterious flying objects. Robert retired from the service in 1972.
After his retirement, Robert continued to work with space-oriented companies. He designed space products for Fairchild Stratos Companies and then moved on to become the Vice President of Stanford Mu Corporation which produces parts for the International Space Station. Robert currently resides in Irvine, California and enjoys reading, writing, traveling and spending time with his family. He is 98 years old and has seven children and numerous grandchildren. He is also a master bridge player and an active supporter of the program Ride 2 Recovery which helps benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for wounded Veterans.
Thank you for your service, Robert!
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? You’re in luck! VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Graphic By Whitney Moore: Whitney is an undergraduate senior at Southern New Hampshire University studying Social Media Marketing.