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Westbury WWII Hero Honored by Town of North Hempstead

Lt. Col. Spann Watson Receives Proclamation

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Councilwoman Viviana L. Russell and members of the town council paid tribute to two local icons: Westbury resident and former Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Spann Watson and Dr. Louis J. Auguste of Great Neck, a Long Island Jewish Medical Center oncologist who led a relief mission to Haiti. Both were presented with proclamations.

“It is often said that the biggest part of getting something accomplished is showing up,” Kaiman noted. “Thank you for showing up. Because of it, the human community and our immediate community is a much better place because of it.”

Lt. Col. Watson took onlookers back to a troubling time in America - when the country was opposed to blacks in the military. The WWII fighter pilot’s parents worked awfully hard so he and his two brothers could get an education, he said. He entered Howard University in 1939 where he studied mechanical engineering. He continued his studies at Tuskegee Institute before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps as a flying cadet.

“Spann Watson is an individual who has and still perpetuates the ideal characteristics of what it means to be an American who loves their country,” stated Russell. “Proclaiming his love for his country when serving at a time when our society did not necessarily judge individuals by their character but rather the color of their skin, shows true veracity of his character.”

During 24 years as a lead pilot, he became one of a handful of Tuskegee Airmen who fought the German Luftwaffe over the Mediterranean Sea. “I am an American,” Lt. Col. Watson said proudly clutching his proclamation. “This is my country.”

Because of the weeklong mission Dr. Auguste and his son took to his native Haiti after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed Port-au-Prince and other parts of the island on Jan. 12, dozens of lives and limbs were saved. Dr. Auguste was among a group of 60 members of the New York Chapter of the Association of Haitian Physicians.

“Gasps were continuous,” Dr. Auguste wrote in his account of the trip as the group set eyes on the capital city, most of it reduced to rubble and occupied by tent cities, dead bodies under the broiling sun. The group ultimately set up shop at the State University Hospital, which had been evacuated. There, even as strong aftershocks rattled nerves and remains of buildings, he repaired life-threatening wounds, changed dressings, provided surgical consultations and even helped with a Caesarean section.

“I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary,” Dr. August said after the supervisor handed him the town proclamation. “It was a natural reaction once you saw the devastation.” He added, “The job is far from done. We have to go back.”