Tuskegee Airman receives long-deserved final tribute


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Edwin and Theda Cowan were reburied at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery with full military honors on Feb. 7. Edwin Cowan was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

Austin Rushnell

Hundreds of people recently paid final respects at the reinterment of a Tuskegee Airman who had been first buried in an unmarked grave.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots that flew in World War II. They were distinguished as the first group of African-Americans to fly in WWII and have since been praised for their efforts during a time of racial segregation.

On Feb. 7, Tuskegee Airman Flight Officer Edwin Cowan, along with his wife Theda Cowan, was reburied with full military honors at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

Cowan, who died in 2009 at the age of 88, originally had been buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of a Merritt Island church.

When Ray Norman, a board member of the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center, learned about that, he started actions that led to the reburial.

After two years of planning, Edwin and Theda Cowan were formally reburied together at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. Members of the Cowan family from five states were there to celebrate the couple’s lives.

Also present at the ceremony were veterans organizations such as the American Legion, Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution and a unit of “Buffalo Soldiers.”

The reburial ceremony was opened with the cremains being brought in on a caisson accompanied by an honor guard.

A speaker informed the crowd that Edwin Cowan had trained for 527 hours of logged flight time, but had never seen combat due to the close of the war.

After the war, Cowan became a mailman in Ohio for 11 years. Then, he earned two degrees and became an educator. He moved to Florida later in life and founded a Red Tails chapter. Theda died in 2007 at the age of 87, and Edwin died two years later. They were both buried in a family plot on Merritt Island.

During the reinterment ceremony, Cowan was given a full military send-off with rifle volley and taps, as well as two flags that were presented to daughter, Leslie Cowan.

Two U.S. Air Force T-38s flew over the final notes of the ceremony.

“(I got) goosebumps,” said Linda Jensen of the Daughters of the American Revolution, when describing the ceremony. “Seriously.”

“It was phenomenal,” added Brian Jensen of the Sons of the American Revolution. “It’s a piece of history.”