By Kevin Robinson

The history of the Tuskegee Airmen speaks of the bravery, dedicated service and demonstrated skills of African American fighter pilots during World War II.

In observance of Black History Month, commissary and exchange patrons can enter a social media contest that honors the legacy of Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later become the Air Force’s first three-star general.

Apparently, Davis Jr. also had a Coca-Cola connection – according to a press release, in a Feb. 15, 2020 edition of Family Magazine, Doug Melville, Davis Jr.’s great nephew, said Davis Jr. would pass out Cokes to his men during World War II after successful missions.

To enter the contest, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola in partnership with the USO and Mondelēz International, authorized commissary and exchange patrons can share their military service story, or that of a family member, on Instagram of Twitter from Jan. 30 to March 2 for a chance to win one $5,000 scholarship or one of three $1,000 scholarships. The submission must include a photo or video (maximum two minutes in length) using the hashtag #ShareYourServiceStoryContest.

Davis Jr.’s Life of Military Service

Davis Jr. is the son of Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., noted in history as the first African American general officer in the U.S. military.

Living up to his father’s legacy didn’t seem to bother Davis Jr. His military career is marked by several historic achievements of his own.

Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and an aircraft. | Photo credit DVIDS

Davis Jr. is the fourth African American graduate of West Point. In 1938, he graduated from the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and later assumed duties as professor of military science at Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama.

In May 1941, he entered advanced flying school at Tuskegee Army Air Base and earned his pilot wings in March 1942.

Davis Jr. became commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron in May 1942. He later took command of the 332nd Fighter Group in October 1943. The combat record for the 332nd, a group of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, is legendary. They flew more than 15,000 sorties, shot down 112 enemy aircraft and the pilots were awarded 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 744 Air Medals, eight Purple Hearts and 14 Bronze Star.

Davis Jr. later was promoted to brigadier general in 1954, making him the nation’s second African American general officer. He would go on to make lieutenant general before retiring from active service.

Then-Capt. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. briefs his pilots. | Photo credit U.S. Air Force

Davis Jr.’s awards and decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Philippine Legion of Honor.

On Dec. 9, 1998, President Bill Clinton advanced Davis to general and pinned on his four-star insignia.

“Gen. Davis’ historic career is an inspiration to us all, being the commander of the illustrious Tuskegee Airmen and the military’s second African-American general,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tomeka O’Neal.

“It’s an honor for us to engage in a program that acknowledges him and his pilots, and allows our military community to share their service stories and compete for scholarships.”

Honoring the U.S. Military Through the “Share Your Service Story” Contest

The “Share Your Service Story” contest is Coke’s way of giving back to the military sales channel, said Michael R. Pelletier, Coca-Cola North America senior shopper, marketing manager.

He feels the contest is part of a company mindset that goes back to former Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff. Woodruff built 64 bottling plants throughout the theaters of operation during World War II, so that all service members could have Cokes for a nickel – no matter where they were in the world.

“Anyone from Coca-Cola who touches the military channel and supports the military channel feels a sense of servitude and we’re proud to serve those who serve,” Pelletier said. “We feel a program such as ‘[Share] Your Service Story’ enriches the lives of our service members and their families. A program like this supports education and helps bring together the military community.”

“This program [“Tell Your Service Story”] will only be run in the military channel, and therefore we’re trying to give service members and their families a reason to shop inside the gate vs. outside the gate,” Pelletier said, “by infusing the commissaries with amazing displays that connect with consumers in meaningful ways during Black History Month.”

For more information on contest rules, go to Coca-Cola’s “Share Your Service Story” webpage.

-This story first appears on DVIDS.net. It has been edited for USO.org