Seahawks salute veterans this Sunday

Nov 11, 2011, 7:08 AM | Updated: 8:19 am

The Seahawks have honored George Hickman by asking him to raise the 12th man flag. (AP Photo/file)

(AP Photo/file)

The Seahawks will be honoring George Hickman this Sunday. Who’s George Hickman?

I’ve chatted with George Hickman at maybe 50 or 60 Husky football and basketball games over the years.

As a youngster, Hickman’s father helped him pursue a keen interest in aviation. George and his dad built many model airplanes and flew them in the skies over St. Louis.

In 1942, Hickman like so many young American men was called to serve his nation.

“The whole country was emotionally disturbed about that bombing of Pearl Harbor,” Hickman recalled. The U.S. wasn’t totally prepared to fight a war. “I don’t think the United States Army Air Corps had 2000 airplanes.”

George qualified for a new pilot training program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen would become the country’s first all black military pilot and ground crew to fight in World War II.

Racism and discrimination were unfortunately a way of life in the United States back then.

“A lot of the white generals didn’t think black people could do anything,” said Hickman. “Prejudice of the very nature was terrible. They thought we were ignorant, and it was like slavery.”

As a cadet captain, Hickman called out white superior officers for the mistreatment of a fellow black cadet and was effectively blocked from flying. Undeterred, Hickman graduated from the program as a crewman, and served in Europe as a flight mechanic during the war.

Just four years ago, Hickman and the remaining Tuskegee Airmen finally got their just due. They were invited guests for President Obama’s inauguration, and received Congressional Gold Medals, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Hickman came to Seattle in 1955 to land a job with the Boeing Company, and spent 29 years with the aeronautical giant. George also scored a job working as an usher and gate captain at Husky Stadium during football games.

Now a spry 87-year-old, George Hickman continues to work at UW football, basketball, softball and soccer games. He’s also on the Seahawks game day staff assisting fans and greeting media members in the press center.

A couple weeks ago his Seahawks supervisor asked to see him with a surprise announcement.

“I didn’t know what to expect. They said, ‘We want you to raise the 12th Man Flag.’ I was stunned.”

Now you know George W. Hickman Jr. Thank you for serving. Thanks to all the men and women who’ve protected our freedoms so we can enjoy football games on Saturdays and Sundays.

This Sunday, the Seahawks will also be collecting food for Northwest Harvest. Fans are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation to Trouchdown City or the gates of the stadium.

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