So, what does a true hero look like?
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Mr. Raymond Cassagnol is a true hero in all respects. However, we are more pleased that he belongs to us as bonafide Haitian hero. Who is Mr. Cassagnol and why is he significant to both Haiti and the United States? Well Mr. Cassagnol is one of the last remaining Tuskegee Airman of Haitian descent. If you’re wondering if you read that correctly? You did! There were in fact six Tuskegee Airmen that were of Haitian heritage.
You may be asking yourself at this point, how come I never heard of Haitians participation not only as Tuskegee Airmen but also their contribution to the fighting in World War II. The truth is that Haitians have participated and assisted Americans not just in their fight for independence but in several significant wars and battles in American history.
Whether at the Savannah battle during the American Revolutionary War and World Wars I and II, Haitians have fought as allies on behalf of the United States of America. In fact, Haitians are actually part of American history, albeit an unknown and omitted history to most Americans. In the early 1940’s Haitians were recruited via an advertisement appearing in a Haitian newspaper recruiting forty pilots for training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. We know for sure that at least six pilots completed training at the Tuskegee Institute and most of them were from the Haitian Military including Mr. Cassagnol, (“The Haitian Tuskegee Airmen”, January 2012).
Earlier this week on September 20th I was honored among many dignitaries across the country to have been invited to speak and congratulate Mr. Cassagnol on achieving a milestone, his one hundred and first birthday and the recognition of being the last Haitian Tuskegee Airman. What an honor it was indeed especially to hear Mr. Cassagnol sing the famous fight song of the Tuskegee Airmen in a clear strong voice.
I have seen in the news recently how desperate Haitians have flocked to the Texas border seeking freedom and a better life, only to be pushed back by Border Patrol agents on horseback with what appeared to be whips. I can only think of the untold contributions of Haitians that may be unknown and hidden in history and the price that they’ve already paid for the freedom that they are being denied. The freedom that Mr. Cassagnol and others helped to provide. Haitians are not begging, they are asking for the very freedom that they fought for and have helped others to achieve. Not to mention the countless number of Haitians and Haitian-Americans who have served honorably throughout history in all branches of the U.S. military. We would most certainly hope that their contributions have not been taken for granted or forgotten. They too have bled and died on the battlefields as well, even when this nation did not grant them the individual freedom and the pursuit of liberty that they were fighting to provide for others.
It is indeed fitting that Mr. Cassagnol shares a birthday with another great Haitian hero and the father of the nation of Haiti, Jean Jacques Dessalines. In closing, I ask what does a hero look like? Well if you’ve understood the significance of our role in world history, you now understand that a hero looks like a Haitian fighting for freedom--yours, mine and anybody else who needs help upholding the value of liberty and justice.
Congratulations Mr. Cassagnol, you sir are not only a national treasure but the story of your life is inspirational. Even in the worst of times you not only persevered but excelled.Thanks for being the hero that you are and representing the Haitian people in an exemplary fashion.
“The Haitian Tuskegee Airmen.” L ’Union Suite, January 22, 2012, http://www.lunionsuite.com/history-the-haitian-tuskegee-airmen/. Accessed 21 September 2021.
*Chief Karls Paul-Noël is a highly experienced retired 27-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. During his career he has served in the ranks as Firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Division Chief, Assistant Chief and Interim Fire Chief prior to his retirement. Chief Paul-Noël is also a former member of Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team since 1987 and has responded to disasters worldwide, including earthquakes in Haiti and Turkey, floods in Mozambique, and numerous hurricanes in the Caribbean. Mr. Paul-Noël is a co-funder and the Vice President of the Haitian American Leadership Initiative.