http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071115/LOCAL1802/711150347/1006/LOCAL Medal signifies accomplishment against odds With a grin on his face and a sense of pride, Paul Watson introduced his great-grandfather Walter Palmer to a crowd gathered to honor the World War II veteran at Eastwood Middle School. Paul Watson, 12, introduced his great-grandfather Walter Palmer at Eastwood Middle School. Palmer donated a copy of his medal Monday to the school's African American Scholars Program, in which his great-grandson participates. "I hope they use it (the medal) as inspiration for some other children to go on to do great things," Palmer said. "There was somebody who said black people didn't have the mental capacity to fly," Paul said. "Apparently they did, and they did a pretty good job at it." Palmer, 86, was honored Monday for his service as one of the country's original Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military airmen. Paul, a seventh-grader, looks up to his great-grandfather but doesn't want to follow in his footsteps. "I like planes, and I want to learn to fly, but I want to be a paleontologist," he said. After talking about his love of planes, flying 158 missions during the war and overcoming racism, Palmer donated a copy of his Congressional Gold Medal to the Eastwood Middle School African American Scholars Program. Paul, 12, is part of the program that encourages students with at least a B average to excel and do community service. "I hope they use it (the medal) as inspiration for some other children to go on to do great things," Palmer said. Along with other Tuskegee Airmen from World War II, Palmer received the Congressional Gold Medal earlier this year in Washington, D.C. The medal is the nation's highest and most distinguished civilian award. "I am just glad we were recognized that we did a good job because we did," Palmer said. "We never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft fire." Palmer's tour of duty took him to Italy, where the Tuskegee Airmen escorted heavy bombers while they were dropping bombs. "I felt like I was king of the world," Palmer said of his time flying. He's been retired from flying since 1945 when a car accident took sight from his left eye. Palmer's speech nearly brought Susan James to tears. Her father fought in World War II, and she came to the event because her children participated in the African American Scholars Program. "For me, you realize it's a whole generation of people who dealt with racism head on," James said. "It just made me want to cry. You don't know what these people had to give up. There was no need to feel glorified. He (Palmer) just has compassion." James is also glad her children have been part of African American Scholars. "Sometimes my daughter was the only black child in some of the honors classes," James said. "African American Scholars helped her develop a sense of belonging and learn that it's OK to achieve." Teacher Samantha Franklin, who sponsors the African American Scholars, plans to display the medal in the school's library along with a photo of Palmer, his book "Flying with Eagles" and a video he shared with students earlier this year.