• Buffalo Soldier anniversary honored

    • email print
  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Former Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Shoffner gave the keynote address to more than 100 people when Fort Leavenworth celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldier Monument dedication July 28.
    Shoffner’s father, Lt. Gen. Wilson “Dutch” Shoffner, was commander of the Combined Arms Center in 1992 when the monument was first dedicated. Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, originator of the idea for the monument, was the featured speaker. More than 20,000 people attended the dedication.
    Artist Eddie Dixon created the 13-foot-tall bronze sculpture to depict a Buffalo Soldier mounted on horseback. Shoffner said the depiction of a mounted warrior ready to go forward into the unknown and do his duty is significant.
    “You’ll note while his mount may appear hesitant, concerned or slightly resistant, the trooper is prepared and confident with his rifle at the ready,” Shoffner said.
    Shoffner said Dixon wanted the top pool of water to reflect the tumultuous times of the second half of the 1860s. He said the United States was in a period of rebuilding and expanding westward when the Buffalo Soldiers played a critical role in achieving the country’s 19th century manifest destiny doctrine.
    “To execute this policy, the government relied on the Army, as it often does, to continue forward progress. In this case, it was the Buffalo Soldier who received the mission to help the country expand west along the frontier,” Shoffner said. “That is where the waterfall comes in — the second symbolic feature.”
    Shoffner said the waterfall represents breaking down certain societal barriers in place before the Civil War. He said the lower reflecting pool is the third symbolic feature of the Buffalo Soldier Monument.
    “As you follow the monument down from the upper pool, across the waterfall, to the lower reflecting pool, you’ll notice that it is symmetrically shaped and the waters are calm and smooth,” Shoffner said. “And this explains the significance of the placement of the Buffalo Soldier. He rests astride the two pools — symbolizing the bridge from the tumultuous past to the hopeful future.”
    Shoffner said the Buffalo Soldier Monument represents the spirit of soldiers through the inspirational and educational contexts of its subject matter along with the allegory of its artistic design.
    “Those qualities are what this monument symbolizes,” Shoffner said. “For it is the American soldier, the unsung hero, who does his duty faithfully, regardless of the environment he’s thrust into or the political conditions of the day.”
    Retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Philpot, the Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee chairman and director, said he wanted to recognize and thank those who have continuously helped the project for more than 25 years. Philpot recalled a recent conversation with retired Lt. Gen. Robert Arter, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, and said it related perfectly to the accomplishment of any group purpose or goal.
    Page 2 of 3 - “General Arter said if you see a turtle on a stump, someone had to put it there,” Philpot said. “If you see a $1.3 million Buffalo Soldier Monument, you know there were many, many (people) responsible for putting it there. We called it the monument that the hands of Providence built.”
    Philpot also thanked various businesses, individuals, companies, fraternal organizations, churches and others who contributed funds and services to the project.
    “While many have helped over the years, there are a few who have contributed and worked with us continuously for 25-plus years,” Philpot said.
    Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued a proclamation honoring the 151st anniversary of the formation of the Buffalo Soldiers on the date and recognizing the 25th anniversary of the monument dedication at Fort Leavenworth.
    Retired Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, executive director of the Governor’s Military Council for the State of Kansas, presented Brownback’s proclamation to Trooper Willie Edley, president of the National 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association.
    Edley said the national organization was honored to be part of the event. He thanked the Alexander/ Madison chapter of the Kansas City Area 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association and area organizations for providing hospitality, then presented a check to Philpot as a donation toward completing the new 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion monument.
    “It is a beautiful and perfect day to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the dedication of this (monument),” Edley said. “And, some of us happened to be here when it was first dedicated.”
    Philpot said the funding provided by Edley’s organization goes with other funds toward completing a new monument that will recognize the contributions of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, which served in Europe as part of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II.
    “The monument is a tribute to the only all-women African-American unit to be deployed overseas,” Philpot said. “Our fundraising goal is $70,000, and we had raised just under $7,000. After the contribution from Trooper Edley today, we have now raised a total of $38,000.”
    Paul Kramer, city manager of Leavenworth, presented a proclamation signed by Mayor Nancy Bauder to Trooper John Bruce, president of the Alexander/Madison Chapter of the Kansas City Area 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Bauder’s proclamation urged her constituents to recognize the civic contributions made by the Buffalo Soldiers.
    George Dunmore, the public affairs officer of the Heart of America Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., attended the ceremony and said the legacies of Buffalo Soldiers and the airmen go hand-in-hand historically. He said both were pioneers in their respective eras.
    “Our organizations have parallel missions. Many of the Tuskegee Airmen were Buffalo Soldiers,” Dunmore said. “We don’t want succeeding generations to forget what the two accomplished.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Theresa Klugh, whose brother Frank Minnis was Leavenworth mayor in 1992, attended the original dedication ceremony. She said the formal recognition of the Buffalo Soldier both then and now is important.
    “Having been here 25 years ago when Eddie Dixon brought the statue in was such a great time for me — and being so proud of the black soldier. As our speaker said today, this (monument) shows real positive strength,” Klugh said. “I’m so proud to be here today.”
    George Pettigrew, vice president of the Alexander/Madison chapter of the Kansas City Area 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association, said planning the ceremony took much coordination. He said effective communication resulted in a positive event for the public to experience.
    “We are pleased it went smoothly and maintained an appropriate level of dignity. But the credit for the success of this event is not mine or due to the efforts of any one individual,” Pettigrew said. “I’d have to give such credit to the support given our troop by the various organizations on Fort Leavenworth who helped create the infrastructure.”
    Bruce said his troop was glad to serve as host and echoed Pettigrew in stating that the effort involved many people.
    “The original troopers served and sacrificed. We are here to model it forward,” Bruce said. “I am honored to be part of this commemoration.”
    Philpot said the monument still serves a definite purpose.
    “It’s just unbelievable that 25 years have passed. And it is great that some of the original Buffalo Soldiers who were here to dedicate the monument then are still here to see this,” Philpot said. “There’s a history here now. The soldiers respect this monument area tremendously — they have their promotion ceremonies here, they re-enlist here. It instills pride in many ways.”
  • Comment or view comments