Black History Month gives us an opportunity to highlight contributions made by African Americans to the greatness of the United States. One of the hallmarks of our country is our strong military tradition. Having spent nine years as an undercover officer in the CIA, I had the privilege of serving alongside our men and women in uniform and it is with deep gratitude that I represent many cities throughout South and West Texas with rich military histories. One such place is Ft. Davis, Texas.
New units that allowed African-American soldiers to serve in the peacetime army were created by Congress in 1866, and changed the course of U.S. military forever. The legendary 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldier” regiments served at Fort Davis from 1867 to 1885.
The brave men of the 10th Cavalry engaged in a number of battles during the Indian Wars, where they earned the distinctive title of the Buffalo Soldiers, and they fought alongside future President Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, the bloodiest battle of the Spanish-American War.
There are many stories as to how they received the name. My favorite version is Private John Randall’s, a member of the Cavalry who was attacked and wounded by Cheyenne warriors while escorting civilians. The warriors were moved by Private Randall’s courage, remarking that the man fought like a cornered buffalo – fighting to no end, even when inflicted with multiple wounds.
Another notable Buffalo Soldier is the Honorable Colonel Charles Young. The son of former slaves, he was a man of insurmountable character that rose above the circumstances of his birth. Young quickly advanced in the ranks to become one of the most distinguished Cavalry commanders in U.S. Military history. His ambition and propensity to defy odds manifested at a young age. By the age of 16, Charles Young was the first African-American to graduate with honors from the white high school he attended in Ripley, Ohio. Colonel Young progressed to be the third black graduate of West Point, and the first black man to achieve the rank of Colonel and Commander of the 10th Cavalry.
These are just a few of the many examples of extraordinary heroism displayed by African-Americans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Black History Month is a great time to celebrate and honor the significant contributions African Americans have made to the incredible history of our nation, but we don’t have to limit learning more about the bravery of men like the Buffalos Soldiers to just February. Places like the Ft. Davis Historic Site are open year round and are wonderful places to learn about the richness of our country.