ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Each February, we honor the contributions of African Americans throughout our nation's history with African American History/Black History Month.

The observance is also mandated by Public Law 99-244.

The focus of this year's observance is "African Americans in Times of War."

African Americans have defended the nation since the Revolutionary War, fighting in wars at home and abroad and serving in each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

During the Civil War, African American served on both sides of the war. Historynet.com, a website created by the publisher of numerous magazines regarding history, shares statistics about their participation.

According to the site, more than 179,000 African Americans served in the Union forces, comprising approximately 10 percent.

These individuals served in over 160 units, with the highest numbers serving in the Navy and support positions.

During the Civil War, Kansas was the first state to officially begin training and recruiting Black Soldiers, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

From July 1862 to October 1863, Fort Scott produced both the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiments. The 1st Regiment was the first all-Black regiment from a Northern state to enter the Union army.

Support positions during the Civil War often consisted of scouts and surveyors.

Harriet Tubman, known for her work with the Underground Railroad, was documented as assisting the Union army.

Most African Americans serving with the Confederacy were considered part of the slave labor force.

According to Historynet.com, some of the slaves who accompanied their masters in battle took their place on the firing line and were adopted by the regiment. Others served as color-bearers.

Legislation was passed March 13, 1865, which would "free" Black slaves if they enlisted in the Confederate Army. Enlistment required the consent of the masters for the enlisted.

The National Archives record that the passage of the Second Confiscation and Militia Act in 1862 allowed freed slaves to enlist after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which occurred in 1863.

African Americans continue to serve the Army with great honor and distinction and have built a legacy of courage and professionalism.

This legacy inspired current and past generations and will continue to do so in the future.

Today, African Americans make up more than 19 percent of the Total Army.

Anniston Army Depot has approximately 233 individuals who self-identify as Black working each day to complete the installation's mission of supporting the nation's war fighters. Of that number, 74 are Veterans.

This year, the DEOMI poster for Black History Month showcases notable individuals who have served in the U.S. military for reflection throughout this month.

They include:
• Officers of Famous [African American] Regiment arriving home from "France"
• Buffalo Soldier Cavalry Troopers
• Co. E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry at Fort Lincoln, Washington, D.C.
• Battalion Commander Maj. Charity Adams and Executive Officer Capt. Abbie Noel Campbell inspecting the first Soldiers of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion to arrive in England on Feb. 15, 1945
• Capt. Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., of Washington D.C., climbing into an Advanced Trainer in Tuskegee, Ala., in January 1942
• 2nd Lt. Marcella Hayes, the first Black female pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces
• The Golden Thirteen, the first African American men selected as officers in the Navy during World War II
• Maj. Shawna Kimbrell, the first Air Force Black female fighter pilot.
• Coast Guardsman Marvin Sanders, Fireman 1st Class, in the Southwest Pacific
• Howard P. Perry, the first African American to enlist in the first U.S. Marine Corps' class of 1,200 Black volunteers in 1942
• Olivia Juliette Hooker, the first African American woman to wear a Coast Guard uniform.
• Gen. Colin L. Powell, first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
• Cathay Williams, first Black female to enlist in the Army in 1866
• Emily Jazmin Tatum Perez, who became the first minority female Cadet Command Sergeant Major at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The second lieutenant was buried at West Point as the first female graduate of West Point to die in Iraq. Perez, a platoon leader, was killed while patrolling southern Iraq near Najaf on Sept. 12, 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded under her Humvee.

I salute all our military service members and the Department of Defense civilians who support them. Your service is greatly appreciated.

Sources:
• www.DEOMI.org
• http://www.historynet.com/african-americans-in-the-civil-war
• www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/article.html