This Friday, November 11, 2017 will be our nation’s 99th holiday observance of Veteran’s Day. The significance of the holiday came about during the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of which World War I ended in 1918. It was a tragic senseless destructive war up to that time in history ending the hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations. Twenty million soldiers died in this war which went on for four long years and the complete end came with the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.
The date of November 11 became a national holiday of remembrance in many of the victorious Allied Nations, a day to commemorate the Combat Fallen. President Wilson initially named the holiday Armistice Day on November 11, 1919 and when World War II begin in 1939 and ended in 1945, there was a push to rename the holiday. Many pushed for the holiday to recognize all veterans who fought in America’s conflicts over the years. So Veteran’s Day was born and signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower on May 26, 1954.
Today, Veteran’s Day honors the duty, sacrifice and service of America’s 25 million veterans and we as a nation should take time to remember and celebrate these brave men and women. African Americans who always served in the armed forces since the beginning fought for freedom, equality as well as for the independence of this great country. I would like to go back in time and take a moment to point out notable African Americans who served in our nation’s great armed forces. There were many, but here are a few I would like to acknowledge.
Crispus Attucks, a son of a slave, was the first causality of the American Revolution on March 5, 1770. A fight broke out between the Bostonians and British Soldiers with Attucks in the middle of the brawl; then the British open fire. He was the first of five men to be killed giving way to the start of the American Revolutionary War. As African Americans continue to serve in the armed forces, they were not considered men or even citizens in the United States. However, they were allowed to fight in the Civil War in 1861, like Lewis Martin.
Lewis Martin was a member of the 29th United States Colored Infantry. His arm and leg was amputated due to battle wounds he sustained while fighting in the famous Battle of the Crater in July 1864.
In the 1800’s, it was illegal for African Americans to receive an education. Miss Taylor went to an “underground school” to obtain an education in nursing. Later in life, she met Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross and she worked alongside of her as a nurse in the Civil War until it ended in 1865. There were 180,000 African Americans soldiers, around ten percent in the union army and one third lost their lives fighting for the end to slavery. It’s worth noting, the United States 10th Cavalry Regiment called the Buffalo Soldiers existed during that time. Their name was given by Native Americans for fighting in the nation’s Indian Wars.
Corporal Freddie Stowers
Corporal Stowers was killed in World War I. He led an African American 371st Infantry Regiment in France to successfully defeat German Troops. Seventy years would pass before he would receive his Medal of Honor. It was awarded post humorously to his sisters by President George Bush in 1988.
Colonel Margaret Bailey
Colonel Baily fought in World War II on the domestic front. She worked to integrate military housing and recreational facilities. She was awarded the Legion of Merit for Exceptionally Meritorious Conduct in 1971. History also brings us the Tuskegee Airmen, pilots of World War II, the first African American men in the armed forces trained to fly war planes from 1941-1945. They trained on a segregated airbase in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1941, fewer than forty thousand African Americans were members of the armed forces and after the airmen joined the armed forces, more than 1.2 million African Americans had signed up to join the military. My uncle Bill, who is deceased now, is a Tuskegee Airman. My aunt Maxine, his widow is still living today, at the ripe old age of 97 years old.
General Powell begin his military career as a ROTC cadet at the City College of New York. He was one of sixteen thousand advisors sent to Vietnam to investigate the My Lai Massacre where more than three hundred civilians were killed by US Soldiers. He eventually became a four star general and he was the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. My father, who admired Colin Powell, often said he would make a good president someday.
Last but not least, my father, Claude Andrew Dixon, a three war combat veteran was promoted to Command Sargent Major in 1963. The super grades E-8 (Master Sargent and E-9 Sargent Major) came into existence the year I was born in 1958. A Sargent Major is the most senior enlisted member of the United States Army and my father became a Sargent Major at a time when opportunities for enlisted African American Soldiers to reach such a senior rank was very rare. My father served in the Army for twenty-nine years and he retired in 1972 at the age of 51. He enjoyed a long civilian life after leaving the armed forces and he died at the age of 88 the day after President Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first elected African American President in 2009. Below he is receiving an award from Colonel Redding while stationed in Germany in 1966. My mother, Juanita Dixon is standing at his side. Happy Veteran’s Day Everyone!