• Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area continues to grow

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Buffalo Soldier Monument was dedicated July 25, 1992, by retired Gen. Colin Powell.
    “In the earliest days of our nation, African-Americans answered the call to arms in defense of America. Whenever that call came, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, black men and women on the battlefield retreat over victory. Beginning with the Buffalo Soldiers in 1866, African-Americans would henceforth always be in uniform, challenging the conscience of the nation,” Powell said at the dedication ceremony. “Thousands of other brave black Americans have gone in harm’s way for their country since the days of the Buffalo Soldiers, always moving forward and upward, step by step, sacrifice by sacrifice.”
    Three years later, the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area was expanded to include the Circle of Firsts and the Walkway of Units south of Smith Lake and near the Buffalo Soldier Monument.
    The Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area was established “to mark the achievements and aspirations of America’s minority citizens,” said historian Quentin Schillare in his book “The People Behind the Names,” which tells the story of the places, names and people who have left their mark on Fort Leavenworth.
    Currently, there are five firsts that are recognized — Gen. Roscoe Robinson Jr., the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 2nd. Lt. Henry Flipper, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Grierson and Powell.
    Robinson was the first monument established in the circle, recognizing him as the first African-American four-star general, according to Schillare.
    “His legacy and your charge … instill in our youth the basic values of hard work, self-discipline, determination, duty, honor, and service to God and country,” said retired Lt. Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr., quoted on the monument.
    The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion monument, also known as “Triple Nickles,” represented by 1st Sgt. Walter Morris, adjutant of the 555th, was dedicated Sept. 7, 2006.
    “The ‘Triple Nickles’ (the unusual spelling was intentional) was formed from the initial parachute test platoon and later company of African-Americans to qualify as paratroopers in the U.S. Army in February 1943 as the Army took its early steps toward eventual integration by race,” according to Schillare’s book. “The company was activated on Dec. 20, 1943, (and) the unit was designated a battalion in October 1944.”
    The monument quotes Lt. Gen. David Petraeus at the dedication ceremony saying, “These great paratroopers walked point for their race and for our country facing down discrimination by ‘standing in the door’ as one and jumping into our nation’s history.”
    The third monument dedicated was of Flipper on March 30, 2007. Flipper was the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1877, according to Schillare.
    Page 2 of 3 - Flipper’s “legacy echoes through the actions of all African-American men and women who have worn cadet gray and served our nation as military officers and leaders of character,” said Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenback, USMA superintendent, quoted on the monument.
    Grierson is the fourth monument, established and dedicated on Aug. 8, 2012. Grierson was commander of the 10th Cavalry Regiment from 1866 to 1888.
    The monument quotes Lt. Gen. David Perkins at the dedication ceremony saying that, “as a commander, Grierson gave the Army a vision for what it could be — an organization where all who sacrifice for this country are treated fairly and where their service is honored equally.”
    The newest monument is of Powell, dedicated on Sept. 5, 2014. Powell had many firsts, including being the first black national security advisor, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first black secretary of State.
    Powell is “a leader whose motivation was based upon selfless service — not himself,” said retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, quoted on the monument.
    All of the monuments in the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area were paid for with private donations.
    Currently, the Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee is raising funds for a sixth monument to be placed in the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area in honor of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.
    Established in November 1944, the 6888th, or the “Six Triple Eight” was a “battalion of 817 (later 824) enlisted personnel and 31 officers, all African-American women drawn from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces and the Army Air Forces,” according to the official Army website.
    The 6888th had several firsts to document including being the first African-American women in the Women Army Corps, the first African-American women as commissioned officers, and the first and only all African-American Army unit to be deployed overseas during World War II, said retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Philpot, Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee chairman and director.
    The battalion will be represented by a depiction of Lt. Col. Charity Adams, the first African-American woman commissioned in the Army and the first and only commanding officer of the 6888th, Philpot said.
    The 6888th “are part of the historical train of the Army Reorganization Act of 1866,” Philpot said. “Although African-Americans had fought in every war/conflict for this country, this act allowed for the first time, African-Americans to be recruited and serve in the Army during peacetime. Prior to this act, African-Americans were recruited after the fighting started and discharged after the war/conflict was over.”
    The 6888th fundraising campaign states, “these ladies departed the United States with no fanfare and they returned home to no celebration or parades, and this monument honors their deeds, sacrifices, and contributions, and helps to uncover another hidden story about African-American heroes.”
    Page 3 of 3 - The new monument is planned to be set in late Fall 2018.
    To support the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion monument, e-mail ww2.6866thpostalmonument@yahoo.com. The monument website, www.womenofthe6888th.org, is scheduled to go online Dec. 1.
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