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Monday, November 11, 2013

African-Americans have fought for our freedoms since the founding of the Republic

African-Americans have fought for our freedoms 
since the founding of the Republic

By Kevin E. Dayhoff, Sunday, November 10, 2013

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun November 8, 2013 for Veterans Day “Black Americans have fought for Republic since its founding [Eagle Archive]” By Kevin Dayhoff, Find the article here:,0,7516674.story

This coming Monday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day. For many it is a day to pause and remember that the freedoms we enjoy have been paid for in full by the service in harm’s way by our country’s nearly 22 million military veterans.

According to the local Molleville Farm Post # 467 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in 2008 9.2 million veterans were older than 64 years of age and 1.9 million were younger than 35.

In 2009, 1.5 million of our veterans were female, 1.1 million Hispanic and 2.3 million are African-American.

“If you study American history very closely, you will see that African-Americans have been stepping up to the plate to defend our nation since the founding of the Republic,” according to Brig. Gen. Linda Singh, 49, the recently appointed commander of the Maryland Army National Guard.

A month ago, on October 11, Singh was one of two keynote speakers at the 11th annual Carroll County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Branch # 7014 Freedom Fund Banquet in Westminster – along with U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-Dist. 7.

Soon after Singh assumed the commander responsibilities in August, she appointed Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Beyard to serve as the Maryland Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major. Many know Beyard, who served twice in the Middle East between 2006 and 2012, as the Westminster city director of housing and preservation services.

Singh is the first African-American – and the first woman to assume the position of commander. “I did not rise to my current assignment by myself. I stood on the shoulders of giants. For much of America's history, one nagging fact of life for African American military members is that they were risking their lives for second­ class citizenship up to the time of the war in Vietnam…

“If you ask why they would do this the answer from most is that this is their country too and there was always a hope that the inequities of the time would be settled. During the Revolutionary War, a newly freed slave named Peter Salem joined the Massachusetts Militia as a condition of his freedom.  The folks were also known as Minutemen… During the American Civil War, 180,000 African Americans fought for the Union Army…”

“African-Americans have served in all of America's wars,” according to historian Jay Graybeal. He reported in research that he conducted for the Historical Society of Carroll County in the early 1990s, “Over 10,000 blacks served in the Continental Army and Navy forces; another 1,000 served with the British. Black seamen fought with great distinction at the critical Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

“The Federal government enlisted 178,975 blacks during the Civil War; 69,178 died during the conflict. Blacks were again called for service in World War I. Approximately 90 Carroll County men served in all-black U.S. Army units,” wrote Graybeal.

Another historian, Duane K. Doxzen, reported in his research for the Historical Society in the 1990s, “Although blacks had served in military units before the Civil War, it was this conflict that saw the enlistment of blacks in large numbers. A significant number of Carroll County free blacks and manumitted slaves enlisted in the United States Colored Troops. Most of these volunteers served in the Fourth Regiment U.S.C.T., a unit that had been formed around the volunteers from the two thousand black Baltimoreans who had aided in the fortification of the city amidst the panic of Robert E. Lee's northward incursion in 1863.

“We know at least fifty three blacks from Carroll County served in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Of this number seven were killed in action, died as the result of a wound inflicted in battle or died of disease. Seven others were discharged or mustered out with wounds or disabilities resulting from their service,” reported Doxzen.

“After the Civil War, the U.S. Congress allowed four colored regiments to be part of the United States Army...two cavalry and two infantry,” said Singh.

“Perhaps the most famous of those regiments was the l0th Cavalry. The soldiers of the regiment were nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" by Native
Americans because of the similarity of their hair to that of buffaloes.

“These soldiers fought Geronimo, bandits, bootleggers, Mexican revolutionaries and guarded the lives of American settlers who were occupying the West. The regiment fought alongside of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders during his attack on San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War.”

Singh observed, “The American Armed Forces were still largely segregated when World War II began in 1941. This did not stop African Americans from volunteering to serve their country….

“More than 966 African American aviators were trained at an isolated training complex at the Tuskegee Institute near the town of Tuskegee Alabama… Four hundred and fifty black fighter pilots under the command of Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Benjamin 0. Davis, Jr. fought in the aerial war over North Africa, Sicily, and Europe…”

“While President Truman desegregated the Armed Forces in 1948, the civilian sector, especially in the south stubbornly grasped to segregation,” said Singh. “This did not stop African Americans from pursuing successful careers in the Armed Forces… Many African American women have made and are making successful careers in the American armed forces…

“Despite its historical flaws, the American Armed Forces has been a stellar example for personal achievement based on merit this is because, advancement, for the most part, is based upon what you do, not who you know….”

President John F. Kennedy said it best, “A nation reveals itself not only by the by the people it produces, but also by the people it honors, the people it remembers”.

Throughout history ordinary people have served in our extraordinary military and accomplished extraordinary things. For this we are eternally indebted and grateful.

And let’s not forget to say Happy Birthday Marines. November 10, 1775, is the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Westminster will honor Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m. at the Westminster Recreation and Parks Family Center, located in the old Longwell Armory, 11 Longwell Ave. The event is hosted by Carroll Post 31 American Legion.

When he is not reminiscing about serving in the Marines and whistling the “Marines’ Hymn,” “… from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…,” while raking leaves, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff (at) Semper Fi. 
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