By Spc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.February 28, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas - From the bloody battle of Chaffin's Farm during the last years of the Civil War to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, African-Americans have played an immeasurable role in the history of our nation and our military.
In celebration of their accomplishments, the 1st Cavalry Division hosted a Black History Month observance on Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 23.
This year's theme was the role of African-Americans in the Civil War.
"The legacy of black Soldier regiments' heroic service during the Civil War remains an inspiring example for every First Team trooper," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the 1st Cav. Div. commander, in his Black History Month Proclamation.
During the event, guest speakers from the local community spoke on the history and tradition of African-American Soldiers.
"What we honor today are ordinary people doing extraordinary things," said Timothy Hancock, the mayor of Killeen.
Hancock, an African-American who retired as a command sergeant major in the 1st Cavalry Division, spoke to the Soldiers about the legacy of all-black regiments during the Civil War, along with Buffalo Soldiers from the later years, and how they impacted future generations of African-Americans serving in the military.
"African-Americans played a huge role in the Civil War," explained Sgt. 1st Class James Dawson, a Houston native and the equal opportunity advisor for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
According to Dawson, as the number of injured and killed white Soldiers rose to staggering levels, the Union chose to enlist African-American Soldiers out of necessity, but the bravery and courage of these Soldiers soon showed that they could help turn the tide of the war.
African-Americans continued on this heroic tradition of military service, and have served in every major U.S. conflict since the Civil War.
"Nobody can really know how much work has been done or how many sacrifices were made by how many people over how many years to get us to where we all are," he said.
"We are here to honor the vision and courage that paved the way for all that came before me," he continued. "We have come a long way."
Hancock warned, though, that while celebrating the history and accomplishments of African-Americans is very important, it is vital that African-Americans continue to build on the efforts of their forefathers to make an even brighter future.
"It is good to celebrate...yet problems remain," he said. "We must understand so we can solve these problems. Race is not a barrier to black achievement. We are as free as we allow ourselves to be."
"There is no limit to the extraordinary things we can do."