A bill to rename an Irvine post office in honor of a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen was signed into law this week by President Joe Biden.

The Northwood Post Office at 1 League will be known as the: Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend Memorial Post Office Building.

Friend’s 28-year military career included flying 142 combat missions while station in Europe during World War II as a member of the all-Black “Red Tails” unit. Friend received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Presidential Unit Citation, Bronze Star with Flying Cross, three Distinguished Service Medals and the Air Medal.

He once told an Orange County Register  he dreamed of becoming a pilot as a young boy, using sticks and boxes to create airplanes. He paid a nickel for used magazines in which World War I pilots told their stories of war.

“I was fascinated,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that. Flying and the adventure of being in a war sounded challenging.”

Friend also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring from the Air Force in 1971. He also headed up the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, which identified cases of Unidentified Flying Objects brought to the attention of the Air Force.

Friend died in 2019 at age 99.

“Our family is truly honored to have his name memorialized so that his legacy can live on for future generations,” Karen Crumlich, Friend’s daughter, said in February 2021, when Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, introduced the bill to rename the post office in Friend’s honor.

“If he was living today, he would have felt that this honor was beyond what he deserved,” she said, “because he felt that he was just doing his duty as an American citizen.”

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