Nov. 11, 2013 -- Brig. Gen. Vollmecke remarks: Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Commemorative Ceremony
November 14, 2013
Brig. Gen. Vollmecke: Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Congressman Pete Gallegos, County Commissioner Tommy Adkinson, Constable Mike Blount, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Richard Perez, fellow general officers, commanders, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted adviser to chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades and senior enlisted advisers and leaders, members of the Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers Association, and the great veterans and citizens of Military City USA, good afternoon.
This Veterans Day we have gathered to celebrate and honor our veteran who answered their nation's call. It is our duty to honor all veterans who served our country, whether in peacetime or in way.
Today we pay a special tribute to the Soldiers of the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry regiments, and the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry regiments. These were the first peacetime all African-American regiments in the regular Army, and they came to be known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
In 1866 through an act of Congress, the Army created the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry regiments, and the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments. After initial training, the Buffalo Soldiers moved west in 1867 to provide security to the early western settlers.
The Buffalo Soldiers served throughout the west, southwestern United States and the Great Plains regions. All or part of the 9TH AND 10TH U.S. CAVALRY Regiments, AND THE 24TH AND 25TH U.S. INFANTRY regiments were at Fort Sam Houston at some point in their unit history. Despite serving at many isolated locations with second-rate equipment, the Buffalo Soldiers served with great honor and valor.
Their courageous service was even recognized by the Indians they fought. The term "Buffalo Soldiers" originated when Pvt. John Randall of Golf Troop, 10th Cavalry Regiment, escorted two civilians on a hunting trip in September 1867.
Seventy Cheyenne warriors attacked the party, and Randall's horse was shot out from beneath him. He fended off the attack with only his pistol until help from a nearby camp arrived. The Cheyenne left behind 13 fallen warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered.
The Cheyenne quickly spread word of the Soldier, "who fought like a cornered Buffalo, and who like a Buffalo had suffered wound after wound yet had not died." It is their spirit and tenacity that was respected and revered by all. Twenty-three Buffalo Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian wars.
In addition, the Buffalo Soldiers built roads, escorted wagon trains of U.S. mail, and constructed thousands of miles of telegraph lines.
More than 5,000 Buffalo Soldiers were called upon to participate in the Spanish-American War. During the Battle of San Juan Hill, five Buffalo Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor as courageous members of Theodore Roosevelt's rough riders in the unit's victory in Cuba.
Following that successful campaign, Buffalo Soldiers took part in the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1902.
Buffalo Soldiers served with great respect under Gen. John Pershing as they fought against Pancho Villa's forces in Mexico in 1916.
Although Buffalo Soldier units did not serve overseas during World War I, several Buffalo Soldiers distinguished themselves on the battlefields of France.
During World War II, Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments served with honor in North Africa, while men of the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments fought in the Northern Solomons and Western Pacific campaigns.
At the onset of the Korean War, the 24th Infantry Regiment was one of the last remaining all African-American regiments. Two Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor during this conflict.
We owe the Buffalo Soldiers our sincere gratitude and respect. There are 281 Buffalo Soldiers laid to rest here, at the hallowed grounds of the San Antonio National Cemetery.
Last Veterans Day, I was in the audience and stood in awe of this cemetery … this very special place. There is no other cemetery that has four Medal of Honor recipients buried alongside one another. Buried here as unknowns to your right under the shade of this Live Oak tree are four courageous Soldiers -- Cpl. John J. Given, Pvt. George W. Smith, Sgt. William Dearmond, and the fourth Soldier buried here who received the Medal of Honor is Pvt. William H. Barnes who served with the 38th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.
But these four Soldiers are not the only heroes buried here. Nine other Medal of Honor recipients are laid to rest here as well as 314 unknown Civil War Union Soldiers.
Other heroes laid to rest here are 2nd Lt. George E.M. Kelly, the namesake of Kelly Air Force Base; Brig. Gen. John L. Bullis, for whom Camp Bullis was named; and Congressman and Spanish-American Cpl. Harry Wurzbach. The San Antonio National Cemetery may be only 3.7 acres with 3,163 interments, but the people buried here make this land a national treasure.
President George Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
Less than 1 percent of Americans served in our military or is serving today. We would not be here today if it were not for our veterans. All of us have a responsibility to always remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who shouldered the burden and pain of war so that all of us may enjoy greater peace, liberty and freedom.
The brave actions of Buffalo Soldiers and veterans today live on in the pages of history. This is an important piece of history that should never be lost.
Today I want us to not only remember their gallantry on the battlefield, but also look at the lasting legacy of strength and service the Buffalo Soldiers and all veterans gave our nation.
Our Soldiers and our veterans are Soldiers for life. It takes a profound strength to wear this nation's uniform. Though one day they will remove this uniform, no amount of time or strife can sever the golden thread uniting these veterans in a unique and everlasting bond.
Our veterans are most deserving of our respect, our recognition, and our support.
To the men and women who wear the uniform today and all those who served, I salute you.
End of remarks.