WASHINGTON, DC Feb. 28, 2007 - Freedom Team Salute, a U.S. Army program that honors the service of Army veterans and Soldiers' support networks, paid tribute to African-American Soldiers who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War during a Black History Month program at the Library of Congress Feb. 23.
The Black History program recognized the legacy of the Leo Brooks Sr. family - the only African-American family to have three members, a father and two sons, achieve the rank of Army general. During the event, Army leadership commended Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Leo Brooks Sr. and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Leo Brooks Jr. for their military service. The younger son, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, is an active-duty infantry Soldier, currently deployed in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division.
The Black History Month Commendation Ceremony also featured Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel - the only African-American to serve in this high-ranking position, overseeing all personnel programs, plans and policies across the entire Army.
The Commendation event was the result of a partnership between Freedom Team Salute and the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, and served to further capture the stories of American veterans and their war-related experiences - preserving them for posterity.
The initiative to celebrate African-American contributions to the U.S. Army was a natural fit for the Freedom Team Salute program. The program's launch in May 2005 allowed for the first time in Army history recognition of the selfless service, loyalty and sacrifice of a Soldiers' personal support networks and the contributions of all U.S. Army veterans. The program fosters good will, boosts morale and promotes the age-old partnership between the American public and the U.S. Army.
"Black History Month presents an opportunity for the Army to recognize the accomplishments of these trailblazers, who have created a legacy within the Army and who embody the best of 'Army Strong,'" said Freedom Team Salute Director Col. T. Scott Lloyd.
"Our program honored living history - a family with three members who rose to the rank of Army general - as well as African-American Soldiers who were willing to serve their country during the most challenging of times."
During the program, Leo Brooks Sr. and Jr. provided personal reflections on their careers and the requirements of leadership - "connecting the dots" between their slave ancestors and their rise to senior levels of Army leadership.
Leo Brooks Sr. retired in 1985 after serving for 30 years in the U.S. Army. In his remarks he told the audience how the contributions of African-Americans to U.S. Army never made it into the history books for many years. He also paid tribute to his great-grandfather and his experiences in the Army.
Leo Brooks Jr. retired in 2005 after completing assignments that included Commandant of Cadets at West Point. He spoke about the honor of following in the footsteps of his father and other African-American Army role models. He also highlighted how the courage, sacrifice and determination of these men and women opened up opportunities for all in today's Army.
"...To each of you who has donned the uniform, I say thanks for your part in earning the respect and admiration that our society feels for its Army -- and for living the warrior ethos and making it possible for one Soldier to look at the other and worry about his marksmanship and job skills not his or her color," he said.
"And to the leaders of tomorrow...recapture those things so hardly fought for in order to give you the opportunity to be free and pursue your dreams."
The early part of this unique program featured a historical presentation by the Maryland Chapter of the 9th and 10th Calvary Buffalo Soldiers Association. The Soldiers, dressed in uniform, shared a day in the life of a Buffalo Soldier and related little-known facts about their military service.
For John P. McLaurin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Human Resources, the event was an opportunity to show that "the Army proudly embraces what the Buffalo Soldiers represent...courage, valor, sacrifice and commitment to a higher cause."
Other special guests included 35 students from White Oak Elementary School in Burke, Va., who sat enraptured as the Buffalo Soldiers shared their military stories and who performed an original song they composed about the Buffalo Soldiers in addition to sharing poetry and essays they wrote for the occasion.
The mission of Freedom Team Salute is to strengthen the Army community by honoring veterans for their service and dedication to the U.S. Army, and by providing Soldiers the opportunity to recognize those who support them. The program allows all Army veterans to receive a commendation package, and provides active-duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers the opportunity to nominate their parents and spouses for a commendation. Guard and Reserve Soldiers can also nominate their employers. All material is provided at no cost to either the nominator or the recipient.
Freedom Team Salute Commendations consist of a certificate of appreciation, a personalized letter of thanks from the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff and an official U.S. Army pin.
To honor someone with a Freedom Team Salute Commendation visit http://www.freedomteamsalute.com.