African American History Month observance at Camp Humphreys
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea -- “Defending the country, more often than not against invisible foes, against longtime friends, against pure evil and against weapons that are out of this world,” said Lt. Col. Natasha Clarke, commander, 194th Combat Support Battalion, 2nd Sustainment Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “It is the same job that Crispus Attucks did in the Revolutionary War. The job that the 54th Infantry Regiment did in Fort Sumter. It is the job the Buffalo Soldiers did while taming the west. It’s the job that the Montford Point Marines did in WWII… It is the job of the American Soldier.”
Every February throughout the United States, the history and achievements of African-Americans are remembered and celebrated.
Founded nationwide in 1976, African-American History Month has been responsible for educating youth and recognizing the contributions and pivotal role African-Americans have played in the shaping of America.
Service members and civilians gathered on Feb. 12 at Freedom Chapel to observe and celebrate the contributions of African-American Soldiers, both past and present, during African-American History Month celebration.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell once described African-Americans serving in the United States military by saying, “African-Americans were always willing to serve the nation that was not yet willing to serve them.”
The first African-American to ever lay down his life for this country was Crispus Attucks, who was killed in the during Boston Massacre which is one of the key events that led to the American Revolutionary War.
Attucks laid the foundation for African-Americans defending a nation that was not willing to accept them.
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began. This was the first war that African-Americans were allowed to fight with the United States military due to Abraham Lincoln’s ground-breaking Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The first African-American unit assembled was the 54th Massachusets Infantry regiment.
The regiment is most famous for the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina on July 18, 1863. Even though the 54th Inf. Reg. lost the battle, they proved themselves worthy adversaries which made the Union have more faith in African-American Soldiers.
This led to more recruitment of more than 180,000 African-Americans and the strengthened of the Union Army.
During the Civil War the United States was expanding westward which led to the American Indian Wars. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments along with 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments were formed and comprised of mostly African-American Soldiers and were given the nickname Buffalo Soldiers by American Indian tribes based on their fierce fighting style and the buffalo hide the troops sometimes wore.
The Buffalo Soldiers not only served in the American Indian Wars but other conflicts to include the Mexican American War, Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII. The regiments that comprised the Buffalo Soldiers were all disbanded, the 10th Cavalry Regiment in 1944, the 9th Cavalry Regiment in 1950, the 24th Infantry Regiment in 1951, and the 25th Infantry Regiment in 1957, and the African-American Soldiers in those regiments were integrated with other units during the Korean War. The Buffalo Soldiers left an impact that can still be seen in the military today.
During WWII the Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines were also the first African-American units of their kind.
The Tuskegee Airmen are credited with damaging or destroying 273 German planes, nearly 1,000 transport vehicles, and aGerman destroyer. The units were deactivated in May of 1946.
The Montford Point Marines first entered the Marine Corps in 1942 and proved themselves to be worthy of their title, however, they were not allowed to serve in infantry units. They worked in transportation, supply, defense and maintenance battalions. The Montford Point Marines would go on to fight in Saipan Island, Peleliu Island, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa Japan.
Even with all of their contributions, dedication and sacrifice these service members, despite proving themselves time and time again, were still considered to be second class citizens based solely on the color of their skin.
“I have a family that is versed in the military for the last 200 years,” said Sergeant Maj. Eric Graham, human resources senior enlisted advisor, Eighth Army.
They fought for the opportunity to see their contributions, to see where America is today and where the country can go in the future, said Graham.
African-Americans still to this day proudly serve in the military and continue to go above and beyond the call of duty. With such notable names such as Retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell becoming the first African-American Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jesse L. Brown being the Navy’s first African American aviator, Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown the first African-American female general and many others recieving Medals of Honor and other awards signifying their achievements.
In 1868 the14th Amendment that gave African-Americans rights was signed.The nation they had defended since before it was founded decided it was time to defend them. However, their struggle for civil rights would go on for more than 100 years later.