WIESBADEN, Germany -- U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden celebrated Black History Month with an observance Feb. 26 in the Tony Bass Auditorium.
The theme for this year's event, hosted by the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, was "Honoring the past, securing the future."Lt. Col. Thomas Herman, deputy commander of the 66th MI Bde., told the story of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment. Initially, they had been relegated to labor service, he said. Then, in 1918 they were assigned to the French, who were ecstatic to receive reinforcements and completely integrated the Soldiers into their front lines, he said."From April 1918 to Nov. 11, 1918, which was Armistice Day, the 369th fought valiantly alongside the French in both defensive and offensive actions along the front," Herman said. "France awarded the entire unit the Croix de Guerre along with presenting 171 individual awards for heroism."
It is important to hear these stories and to celebrate Black History Month, Herman said. Events like these help to educate people on the many forms of racism so Army Soldiers and leaders can identify it and stop it."Personally, I see their example as one of the truest forms of selfless service out there; something I want to try and emulate. What about the other Army values? Loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity and personal courage. This unit - these Soldiers-and many others truly lived the Army values in some of the most extreme conditions possible. It is important to celebrate their achievement and attempt to emulate their example."
While acknowledging the successes the U.S. has made over the last 100 years, he cautioned the need to remain vigilant and strive to root out racism and discrimination."Diversity is one of our country's and our Army's greatest strengths, as it allows us to harness the best of all of us," he said. "Learning from where we have been will help us do better for tomorrow."A video was presented that depicted moving stories of the contributions of local blacks and African Americans in history and in the Army.
Master Sgt. Tony Williams, 66th MI Bde., shared the story of his great, great uncle, Bishop Robert S. Williams and his family's 100-plus-year legacy of church leadership, which he continues today in the Catholic Church.Command Sgt. Maj. Francis Swirko, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion U.S. Army Europe, recalled as a white student being bused to a majority black and Hispanic school district in Boston in 1974. He described how he and other children on his bus had to duck down to avoid rocks being thrown in protest.Benjamin Brand paid tribute to his long-time friend and Soldier Master Sgt. Micheal Riley, who spent many years stationed in Germany and died during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2019.USAG Wiesbaden Postmaster Carolyn Johnson told of how she joined the Army against her father's advice and experienced discrimination because of her skin color. She later went on to make history as the first female postmaster in Europe, which she called "an honor."The U.S. Army Europe Dixieland Band entered from the back of the auditorium belting out jazz hits, such as "Basin Street Blues," popularized by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Miles Davis; and "I Found a New Baby," first recorded by African American jazz pianist and composer Clarence Williams.