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Posted under: News HBCU News

Howard Graduate Makes History Within The U.S. Air Force

Capt. Reemashay Nelson has been performing flyovers in honor of first responders.

Capt. Reemashay Nelson has been making history while honoring those involved in the effort to help communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to NBC 4 Washington.

Nelson is the first Black woman to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, which has been conducting flyovers in cities across the country as a gesture toward first responders, nurses, doctors and other essential workers helping battle the spread of COVID-19 and support their communities.

"I know a small percentage of African American officers, specifically female officers in the Air Force. So to be in a position that is visible, to show little girls that this is attainable, to let them know they can do anything they put their mind to, is an absolute honor," Nelson said in an interview with NBC 4 Washington.

The Howard University graduate is one of the newest members of the Thunderbird team. This is her first season with the Thunderbird squadron. 

Nelson is in vaunted territory considering there have only been 332 officers appointed to the squadron since it was created in 1953. Only 12 members are chosen for the team. In her interview with NBC 4 Washington, Nelson said she was proud of her achievement because of what it means for the next generation of Black women who may want to join the Air Force.

"Even when people tell you no to your face, but your work shows where you should be, I think if you continue to work hard and go after what it is you want, you will achieve your dream," Nelson said.

The Thunderbirds typically perform at shows across the country, but, due to the pandemic, they have had to cancel most events.

But that has not stopped them from performing for regular citizens across the United States. They have already conducted flyovers in New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore and Atlanta, with more planned for the future. 

Nelson said she hoped the events would provide a bit of solace to people who are stuck inside and added that the flyovers are for all essential workers doing their best to help society in troubling times. She told NBC 4 Washington that she wanted the flyovers to also honor sanitation workers, food service providers and grocery store workers as well. 

"Where people can look up and have some type of hope during this time, to know we can get through this. The Thunderbirds are with them. We have one life to live and so I want to do that by giving back and by showing people what is possible. Just to achieve as much as I can when I have the opportunity to do so," Nelson said.

Before joining the Thunderbird squadron, Nelson attended Howard University and spent eight years mostly overseas with the Air Force. 

"To be around people who look like me and instill a self-confidence in who I am, and walk into the world knowing where I come from and where my people come from, and where we can go, is invaluable," Nelson said of her time at Howard.
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