Tuskegee Medal Presentation Writes Final Chapter

BASKING RIDGE- JULY 21, 2022 – Robert and Estelle Terry who once lived in Basking Ridge across the street from the Somerset Hills Airport were honored today at the site of their former home for a ceremony to present the Terry family with the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional medal of honor.

While the temperatures rose into the mid 90s there was noting that was going to stop this day” said Brooks Betz, who wrote the research article about the history of the Terry story. “This was one of the great American success stories that needed to end with the presentation of these medals and I couldn’t have been more moved to have the family come back and be honored.”

Family and friends traveled from all over the country to Basking Ridge to honor the family of Robert and Estelle Terry to Take part in the presentation of the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Medal of Honor to the Terry family.

After 76 years, Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Medals were Presented to the Family of Robert & Estelle Terry in Basking Ridge, New Jersey

It took almost two years as Brooks Betz, historian and researcher, wrote a story about Captain Robert and Estelle Terry who resided in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Based on the research, the non-profit Mr. Local History project felt it would be fantastic if the final chapter of the story was the surviving family be awarded the Tuskegee Congressional medal of honor. This ceremony writes that final chapter as the Mr. Local History Project and New Jersey dignitaries present the Terry family with two Tuskegee Airmen Congressional medals.

Captain Robert Terry and his wife Estelle Terry’s contributions as Tuskegee Airmen were honored on July 21, 2022 in Basking Ridge as Tuskegee Congressional medals were presented by the non-profit Mr. Local History Project and letters of recognition were presented by representatives from the offices of Senator Corey Booker, Senator Robert Menendez and Representative Tom Malinowski.

Two Tuskegee Medals were struck at the Philadelphia Mint based on the original medal that was presented by President Geore HW Bush back in 2006 thru an Act of Congress.

In attendance for the ceremony were friends and family but the guests of honor included Dr. Qaaim Saalik, Robert & Estelle Terry’s son, Malika  Ra – Dr. Saalik’s daughter – (Robert & Estelle Terry’s granddaughter) and Ramdasha Bikceem – Dr. Saalik’s daughter (Robert & Estelle Terry’s granddaughter). Dr. Saalik current resides in the Bronx.

Presentations and Awards Ceremony

The ceremony kicked off with Brooks Betz, trustee for the Mr. Local History Project and Bernards Township historian, welcomed the guests of honor, family, friends, dignitaries and the press on the site where the Terry family once lived. After the welcome, a statement was shared by Andrew J. McNally, Esq, Deputy Mayor, Bernards Township followed by John Casey Doss – Assistant to US Senator Corey Booker, Jeremy Julis – Aid to US Senator Robert Menendez and Marco Laguna, NJ –District 7 Congressman Malinowski’s Outreach Coordinator and Veteran/Military Representative.

Two American flags that were recently flown atop the US Capitol honoring Robert and Estelle Terry were presented to Dr.Saalik along with a joint letter of recognition signed by United States Senators Booker, Menendez and US Representative Tom Malinowski.

As the final act and what Betz referred to as his ultimate final chapter to his story, Meg Wastie, Trustee at the Mr. Local History Project along with Brooks Betz, presented official Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Medals of Honor to Qaaim Saalik and the rest of the family.

“My friend Debbie came up to me after the event and said she heard my voice shaking a bit during the medal presentation. Absolutely, I said. It was a really emotional moment as I’ve been trying to put this together for years. It’s so great when something like this comes together. I couldn’t have been happier for the recognition that was due to the Terry family. The final chapter was written today.

brooks Betz, mr. local history project & Township historian

The event concluded the audience heard a few kind words from Robert and Estelle Terry’s son. Qaaim then thanked his friends and family for coming as well as all the dignitaries gifts and the Tuskegee Airmen medals honoring his parents.

Dr. Saalik (Robert Terry Jr.) and Brooks Betz along with the ceremonial Mr. Local History hat.

As we said our final good byes, I approached Qaaim and gave him a quick tidbit of information. I said You know why I gave you two medals? His response was “it was one for my mom and one for my dad right? I responded “True, but another reason is that you have two daughters, and there was no way I was going to have Malika and Ramdasha fight for who gets only a single medal someday. He smiled, thanked us again, and the ceremony ended.

Brooks Betz

Special Thank You

A special set of thanks goes out to everyone who made this day possible. The non-profit Mr Local History Project, Senator Booker’s office, Senator Menendez’s office, Representative Malinowski’s office, Bernards Township, friends and family. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for bringing a great American story to light and recognize the efforts of Robert and Estelle Terry.

Side Stories

You can’t make this up. On the same day of the honoring of Robert and Estelle Terry on July 21, a weather alert came up on my phone. Seems there was a hurricane in the Pacific called “Hurricane Estelle” – I kid you not! Estelle had been brewing for the last few days. And even more strange, at the end of our ceremony, Hurricane Estelle was downgraded to a tropical storm. Malika Ra, Estelle Terry’s granddaughter smiled and replied “that was Estelle!”

Honoring Estelle Terry’s Tuskegee experience seemed to have reached out to the heavens. She made her presence know.

Terry and His Wrestling

Hal Garwin, a guest who was in attendance and lives in town just across the street in Basking Ridge wrestled on the same high school wrestling team at Columbia High School in Maplewood when Bob Terry Jr. was a ferocious wrestler and multi sport athlete.. Hal presented him with an official Columbia wrestling sweatshirt claiming, “maybe it’ll fit you better than me…I just don’t think I can grow into it. (Hal is like 5′ and weighs around 128 pounds, probably very close to his wrestling weight. The crowd laughed. Saalik smiled and held up the gift.

Donations Anyone?

The Mr. Local History Project is a non-profit 501c3 charity organization. If you’d like to donate to cover the cost we incurred from the medal purchases (yes we had to purchase the medals) we’d appreciate any support. Your contribution is TAX DEDUCTIBLE as we are a IRS recognized 501C-3 non-profit education charitable organization.

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