Historic Soldiers honored with memorial in Huntsville
May 5, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - After years of hard work by dedicated volunteers and city officials, a little-known group of Soldiers now has a permanent memorial in Huntsville.
On April 30, the Buffalo Soldier Memorial Monument was unveiled and dedicated in its new home on Cavalry Hill, just off University Drive. The monument is only one of three known dedications to the historic group of African-American Soldiers in the U.S.
"This is a great day," said Tommy Battle, mayor of Huntsville. "This is part of our heritage that we need to constantly look at and say - this is Huntsville."
Brig. Gen. Christopher Tucker, U.S. Army Security Assistance Command's commanding general, helped dedicate the memorial along with other federal, state and local officials, as well as members of the Huntsville Chapter of the Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle and Trooper Club.
During his opening remarks, Tucker expressed his honor in saluting the Buffalo Soldiers who loyally served their country and left a lasting heritage. He went on to thank all those present for making the memorial possible.
The monument includes a statue of Buffalo Soldier Sgt. George Berry atop his horse holding the regimental flag. The statue now rests on top of a 10-foot-tall, 35,000 pound granite base inscribed with the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and listing those who received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Many of the speakers at Friday's dedication spoke of the memorial's long road from conception to reality.
Chris O'Neil, facilities project manager for the city of Huntsville said, "This project was 14 years in the making."
The idea for the memorial was conceived by Dr. John Cashin whose grandfather wrote a history of the Buffalo Soldiers. The statue was commissioned by the city of Huntsville in 2001. Casey Downing, a Mobile artist, sculpted the statue.
"I am as proud as I can be to be a part of this project," Downing said.
In 2005, the statue was moved into the Academy for Academics and Arts in the Cavalry Hill community. It was housed in a glass case and seen by school children every day, but had no permanent home.
"The statue needed to be outside for all of us to see," said Alex Harrison, chairman of the Buffalo Soldier Ad Hoc Committee.
Harrison held back tears during his speech, "I am swollen with pride," he said.
After five years of diligent work by the committee and funding support from the city and state, the Buffalo Soldier Memorial Monument now has a permanent home in the city that once hosted the legendary Soldiers.
The Buffalo Soldier Memorial honors all African-American service members who served their country with honor and courage. African-Americans were organized into segregated regiments in 1866 and served primarily in the western United States. The nickname "Buffalo Soldier" refers to the mounted regiments of the 9th and 10th Cavalries. During the Spanish-American War, Buffalo Soldiers served alongside Teddy Roosevelt and his band of Rough Riders. After the war, the 10th Cavalry was ordered to Camp Albert G. Force in Huntsville. They encamped on the spot that became known as Cavalry Hill, now the permanent home of the Buffalo Soldier Memorial Monument.
"The bravery, chivalry and gallantry of African-American Soldiers have been validated time and again," said Bob Harrison, Madison County commissioner, District 6. "The black fighting man has and always will stand ready."