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North Texas Funeral Held for Tuskegee Airman Calvin Spann

"At that time of our country's history, they weren't hiring black pilots"

Calvin Spann, one of the first black pilots in the United States military, flew 26 missions over Nazi Germany during World War II.

But to Dr. Carla Spann-Lopez, he was dad.

"We didn't know him as a national hero," she said. "We knew him as a personal hero."

On Saturday, the Tuskegee airman who served both his country and his family was honored in Carrollton with military honors, a three-volley salute and a flyover.

"Waves of emotion keep coming up with every tribute, with every honor that's made for him," said Spann-Lopez.

She and her sister, Gai Spann, told NBCDFW their dad rarely spoke of his accomplishments. Or about flying a 1,600 mile mission from Italy to Berlin, the longest in the history of the 15th Air Force.

"There was a play that came out of Broadway, and that's when my father started mentioning that he's an airman, and then we started speaking and we heard all the stories so we found out later in life that he was that kind of quiet leader," said Gai Spann,

The lieutenant fought two wars in his lifetime – one against the military enemy, and the other against racism at home.

Spann was unable to get a job as a pilot after the war. "At that time of our country's history, they weren't hiring black pilots, to be quite frank," said Gai.

In 2006, President George W. Bush awarded the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor.

That was around the time Spann moved from New Jersey to McKinney, where he died Sunday, Sept. 6, surrounded by family.

A life whose impact won't end with death.

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