Many Veterans Have Made the Ultimate Sacrifice – Even in the Face Inequality

I recently saw a sign about our veterans that said, “We honor your sacrifice, remember your service and appreciate our freedoms.” That pretty much sums it up right? We can thank the men and women who serve, fight and sacrifice for this country every single day so that we can have the freedoms that make us the best country in the world.

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause,” said Abraham Lincoln.

So let’s put politics aside for a moment and forget about The Donald and Clintons and stop feeling the Bern. Memorial Day will be recognized next week and is aholiday that should remind us of the sacrifices many men and women have made fighting for our country.
While some view it as a holiday that ushers in summer and summer time festivities like barbecues; it’s certainly about much more than grilling and going to the beach.

In fact, risking ones life for his country is truly the ultimate sacrifice. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never has there been a good war or a bad peace.”

We honor all veterans on this day, but I think special recognition must be given to those who fought for a country they loved that refused to consider them as “true” citizens.

And this is not some radical message intended to stir anyone up, but recognition of the black soldiers who fought for this country during very turbulent times – dealing with open racism and segregation.

One of the most troubling stories I have ever heard was from a senior citizen who was attempting to explain to me the various racial and economical hurdles he had gone through in his life.

He talked about serving our great country in WWII and coming home to be treated as a second-class citizen. In fact, he talked about military dogs being treated better than African American soldiers.

He recalled being on a train in Europe in which German prisoners were able to ride in passenger cars, but black soldiers had to ride in the back of the train – often with cattle and other livestock.

So while African American soldiers fought in many battles and died on many battlefields they still were never good enough to be considered as equals. Back in the homeland blacks continued to be discriminated against and lynched in record numbers during WWII.
And throughout the South, a racist legal system known as “Jim Crow” segregated people by race in restrooms, hotels, restaurants, and most other public accommodations.

My grandfather was good enough to drive trucks in the military supplying goods and supplies, but he wasn’t good enough to eat at a diner in downtown Jacksonville or use the same restrooms as whites in Hemming Plaza.

“My country tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where our fathers died, Land of the pilgrim’spride,” hardly words that related to the true conditions facing black soldiers.

Not only was the U.S. military segregated during World War II, but black soldiers were also excluded from most victory parades that followed. And although many history books don’t tell us that African Americans truly played a prominent role in the United States’ victories in WWII.

The Tuskegee Airmen escorted bombers on runs in North Africa and parts of Europe and never lost a bomber. The 761st Tank Battalion, known as the ‘Black Panthers,’ landed in France four months after the D-Day invasion and later liberated concentration camps. It wasn’t until thirty-three years after the war ended; the group received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Some would say why talk about these past injustices, let’s move forward. I agree, but I am not talking about the past to upset any one, and I am not advocating reparations for these injustices, just simple recognition.

Sometimes simple recognition goes a long way.

The United States has the most powerful military in the world, as we stand “united” against terrorism, unfortunately we have never been fully united against racism and discrimination. Hatred and bigotry must be defeated the same way we strive to end all terrorism.
We give honor to all veterans, and thank them for their continued sacrifice and commitment to this country. Thank you!

In the wise word of A. Philip Randolph, “Freedom is never given; it is won.”
Signing off from the Memorial Wall in Downtown Jacksonville,

Reggie Fullwood

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