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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.

11 Comments

Bill Ivey commented on May 27, 2014 at 9:25am:

Those stories...

... are very familiar to me as my mother-in-law was and is so upset by the injustice that she tells them regularly and, like you, makes the connection to current veterans' issues as well.

Regarding homelessness and other veterans issues, my understanding is that Bernie Sanders plans to introduce extraordinarily comprehensive legislation relative to health care, dental care, educational opportunities, the infamous backlog, job-finding, and more. Those interested may want to check out the features and make their views, whatever they may be, known to their own senators and member of Congress.

David Cohen commented on May 29, 2016 at 2:19pm:

An important part of Memorial Day

Thank you for sharing this, Renee. It's a sad reminder of how deeply engrained racism is in our nation. One would hope that the willingness to enlist and serve would be a great equalizer within the ranks, creating a bond strong enough to overcome racial prejudice. And maybe it has, for some people. But your father's experience, and those you highlight above, will be on my mind tomorrow. 

Shawn Jones commented on June 2, 2016 at 6:25am:

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women who have died in military service for the United States. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.

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James Williams commented on July 19, 2016 at 4:07am:

Memorial Day

This is really a nice post and i agreed with David Cohen.  

William 

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James Williams commented on July 26, 2016 at 4:33am:

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Thank you for sharing this, Renee. It's a sad reminder of how deeply engrained racism is in our nation. 

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James Williams commented on August 24, 2016 at 7:58am:

An important part of Memorial Day

Thank you for sharing this, Renee. It's a sad reminder of how deeply engrained racism is in our nation. One would hope that the willingness to enlist and serve would be a great equalizer within the ranks, creating a bond strong enough to overcome racial prejudice. 

Regards.

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Samantha Smith commented on August 26, 2016 at 10:42am:

This is a great post! This

This is a great post! This story is really important for the whole community. 

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Shana Don commented on September 20, 2016 at 8:37am:

Really good post, it is

Really good post, it is really sad that racism still exists in our country I wish everyone loved and respected each other.

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ryan walter commented on September 21, 2016 at 1:12pm:

Thank you for posting this

Thank you for posting this Renee, We can only hope racism will end one day. 

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Jessica New commented on October 19, 2016 at 7:21am:

An important day!

Thank you for the article! I agree that we should speak more about the history of our country. Moreover, a Memorial Day is very special for our country.

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