A Memorial Day Lesson

My father, a sergeant in the Army, often talked of how he returned from two tours of duty in Korea only to be told by Bell Telephone in Michigan that they weren’t hiring colored people.

Daddy was very proud of his service and loved this country. He raised and lowered the American flag on his front porch every day until his death. But when he talked about his time in the Army, the two events that stayed with him, were how he was treated when he came home, and the racism he endured while training in Georgia.

I’ve since had those tales re-confirmed by many testimonies from older Black people here in Mississippi, including my in-laws, and in this well-done documentary:

http://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_war_democracy_african_american.htm

The commentator notes:

Problems began as early as basic training. Many black draftees from the North, sent to training camps in the deep South, encountered Jim Crow laws for the first time. There were frequent and sometimes bloody confrontations between black servicemen and white civilians, black troops and white ones — over women and local customs and equal access to military facilities. African Americans soldiers discovered their army meal tickets would not be accepted; they would not be served in restaurants that freely fed German or Italian prisoners*. In some towns, African-American soldiers were jailed. A few were lynched.

{*My note: German and Italian POWs were housed in military facilities in the South during and after WWII.}

 …maybe more than a few; many of the veteran’s deaths were unrecorded, uninvestigated, forgotten.

Much has improved since my Dad’s service days, but the problems are far from over. In addition to the many news reports today of how we are mistreating and underserving our veterans is the fact that many of our veterans are homeless, and “roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively” (Source: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans).

Let’s teach the whole story of the cost of freedom, and let’s remember all the fallen.

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