The 30th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldier Monument’s dedication was celebrated July 28 at the site of the statue at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
According to “Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names” by Quentin Schillare, retired Gen. Colin Powell, the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. secretary of state, dedicated the monument July 25, 1992, to recognize the continued legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers in the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, and by extension the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments, established in 1886. Powell initiated the project after he was concerned that the only memory of the regiments on Fort Leavenworth were the names of streets. Eddie Dixon sculpted the statue and other works in the Circle of Firsts.
Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, host of the ceremony, said the monument’s dedication was a special moment for him because his first tactical unit in the Army was the 10th Cavalry. He said one of his greatest achievements was commanding the first squadron of the 10th Cavalry during the invasion of Iraq. He said it was a full-circle moment from when he first learned about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers as a lieutenant.
Martin said the 10th Cavalry was established with cast-off equipment, until Col. Benjamin Grierson was selected to lead the regiment. He said the regiment was considered the most disciplined fighting force in the West, and by the time Martin served in the unit in 2003, it was the only Cavalry unit with the latest model equipment.
“There was no better equipment in the Army, and I had the finest soldiers that the United States Army had ever fielded.”
He said today, soldiers in the 9th and 10th Cavalry are serving in Texas or deployed in Europe, and soldiers in the 24th Infantry are serving in Alaska.
Martin bestowed guest speaker retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Philpot with the call sign “Relentless 6” in Cavalry tradition for his relentless efforts to keep the memorial project on track.
Philpot said the anniversary of the monument is also the anniversary of the 1866 Army Reorganization Act standing up the 9th and 10th Cavalry and four other units, the 74th anniversary of President Harry Truman’s executive orders 9980 and 9981 ending segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces and federal workforce, and the 56th anniversary of the establishment of the National Buffalo Soldier Association.
Philpot thanked his family and friends, as well as people and organizations that supported the production of the monument through several phases of development and dedication. Philpot shared stories of cooperation with local organizations and conversations with Powell.
Philpot said in his last conversation with Powell, who died in October 2021, Powell said he was ill, but their conversation centered on the monument.
“He had a lot of joy in his voice when we were talking about the Buffalo Soldier Monument.”
He said the fundraiser to build the monument began in 1989 and accrued $1.3 million in three years, and he celebrated its progression from idea to reality.
“The Buffalo Soldiers are not important because of the battles they won or the challenges they faced; they’re important because they changed the face of the American military forever,” Philpot said.