NAACP ban­quet hon­ors vet­er­ans

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WINGATE vwingate@ches­pub.com

CAM­BRIDGE — The Dorch­ester County chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (NAACP) hon­ored vet­er­ans at its an­nual Free­dom Fund ban­quet on Satur­day, Nov. 12.

PFC James Richard Jol­ley, Cpl. Frank Dick­er­son, Wal­lace E. Mitchell and Orville Perry, all mem­bers of the Cor­po­ral Her­man Hughes Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 87 in Cam­bridge, were pre­sented spe­cial hon­ors in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of their ser vice.

Jol­ley is 86 years old. He en­tered the Army at the age of 20, and served in Ger­many. He was hon­or­ably dis­charged in 1953. He is the long­est run­ning mem­ber of Post 87 at 52 years.

Dick­er­son is 102 years old, and was un­able to be present for the ban­quet. He en­tered the Army in 1942, also served in Ger­many, and re­ceived 5 medals and a ci­ta­tion from Pres­i­dent Obama in re­gards to his ser­vice.

Mitchell is 72 years old. He joined the Army in 1968, and served in the Viet­nam War. He re­ceived a Pur­ple Heart for an in­jury sus­tained in Viet­nam, and ad­di­tional medals and hon­ors.

Perry is 85 years old. He joined the Army in 1950, and was sta­tioned in Fort Drum, N.Y. be­fore be­ing sent to Ger­many. He was hon­or­ably dis­charged in 1952.

In ad­di­tion to the four pri­mary hon­orees, all vet­er­ans in at­ten­dance were given a cer­tifi­cate of ap­pre­ci­a­tion and a pin in thanks for their ser vice.

Dr. Clara Small served as the guest speaker for the oc­ca­sion. She re­cently re­tired from her 36-year pro­fes­sor­ship at Salisbury Univer­sity where she taught his­tory cour­ses.

She has writ­ten books about African Amer­i­can his­tory on Del­marva, re­ceived awards for her work in pre­serv­ing that his­tory, and cur­rently serves on the Gov­er­nor’s Com­mis­sion to Co­or­di­nate the Study, Com­mem­o­ra­tion, and Im­pact of the His­tory and Legacy of Slav­ery in Mary­land.

The mes­sage she shared with the NAACP and guests con­cerned the his­tory of African Amer­i­cans, free and en­slaved, in the United States mil­i­tary. She spoke of the de­ter­mi­na­tion of African Amer­i­cans to fight for their coun­try in all con­flicts, de­spite the dis­crim­i­na­tion they en­coun­tered, and still do en­dure to­day.

“All too often we for­get to honor those who have been re­spon­si­ble for our safety, our well­be­ing, and pro­tec­tion of our way of life,” Small said. “Through­out our his­tory, vet­er­ans–of­fi­cially as well as un­of­fi­cially–have pro­tected and de­fended this do­main.

“If we ex­am­ine our his­tory from the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion to the present, our vet­er­ans have ral­lied to the cause of free­dom and jus­tice,” she said. “Amer­i­cans of African de­scent have served in ev­ery war, con­flict and mil­i­tary cri­sis this coun­try has been in­volved in, even be­fore it was be­fore the United States of Amer­ica. We have lived, died, and fought for the right to fight and be ac­cepted in this coun­try as equals.”

Small spoke of how African Amer­i­cans were dis­crim­i­nated against dur­ing the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Viet­nam War and even in to­day’s con­flicts in the Mid­dle East.

“The black sol­diers faced a num­ber of dis­crim­i­na­tions (in the Civil War),” Small said. “His pe­riod of en­list­ment was longer than white sol­diers; he had lit­tle chance of be­ing pro­moted to the rank of a com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer; his pay was lower; he did not re­ceived the same hos­pi­tal or med­i­cal care; he was fur­nished with in­fe­rior firearms; and if he was cap­tured by the en­emy, he ran the risk of be­ing treated as a pris­oner of war.”

With World War I, it was more of the same.

“Black and white sol­diers were seg­re­gated in ev­ery facet of life, de­spite the fact that they were fight­ing the same en­emy,” Small said. “The ex­cep­tion to that rule was that African Amer­i­can sol­diers had to fight a sec­ond en­emy, dis­crim­i­na­tion and racism, while white sol­diers did not.

“By the end of the war, over 100,000 African Amer­i­can men had served over­seas and dis­cov­ered that Amer­i­can racial ide­ol­ogy lacked univer­sal reach,” she said. “Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite the valor of African Amer­i­can sol­diers dur­ing the war, they were not al­lowed to march in the Al­lied vic­tory pa­rade in Paris in 1918. To add in­sult to in­jury, the war mu­ral in Paris did not in­clude an im­age of African Amer­i­can sol­diers. As a re­sult, the of­fi­cial, visual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Amer­i­can armed forces was com­pletely white, but they (African Amer­i­cans) con­tin­ued to ser ve.”

De­spite the progress made with the Civil Rights Movement and other ef­forts, African Amer­i­cans and other mi­nori­ties still face dis­crim­i­na­tion in the armed forces, ac­cord­ing to Small.

“Many of those same dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices still ex­ist, com­bined with new con­cerns of sex­ism, gen­der bias, and on and on, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously fight­ing the en­emy,” Small said. “Yet African Amer­i­can sol­diers still serve, and con­tinue to fight for the right and priv­i­lege to pro­tect this na­tion. Some serve for eco­nomic rea­sons, to pro­vide for fam­i­lies. Some serve to travel the world. Some serve to ob­tain an ed­u­ca­tion through the GI Bill, and for other ben­e­fits, es­pe­cially when there was a down­turn in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.”

In light of the dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices still ob­served to­day, Small called for every­one to re­spect and ap­pre­ci­ate vet­er­ans and their sac­ri­fices.

“The mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic still do not al­ways know or un­der­stand what those sol­diers have gone through in or­der to preser ve our lib­er­ties,” Small said. “They don’t al­ways re­spect their ef­forts and the sac­ri­fices that those brave souls have made in or­der for us to en­joy the lives and lib­er­ties we take for granted. That is the rea­son why Vet­er­ans Day was be­gun in 1918 as Ar­mistice Day. It is tra­di­tion­ally cel­e­brated at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month of the year.

“Strange as it may seem, we don’t see a very large num­ber of African Amer­i­cans on Vet­er­ans Day,” she said. “We need to change that trend. We need, as a peo­ple, to be­gin to in­ter­view them, to learn of their sto­ries. We must rec­og­nize and cel­e­brate their sto­ries, and be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate all that they may have done and are do­ing for us, this coun­try and the world. If we do so, we can learn of their hero­ism and the strug­gles that they en­dured.”

PHOTO BY VIC­TO­RIA WINGATE

Dr. Clara Small was the guest speaker for the event. Also seated at the head ta­ble was Sharon Eger­son, South Eastern Shore Amer­i­can Le­gion Com­man­der for Dorch­ester County; Wil­liam Jar­mon, Vice Pres­i­dent of the Dorch­ester County NAACP Branch; and Gerald Stans­bury, Pres­i­dent of the NAACP Mary­land State Con­fer­ence.

PHO­TOS BY VIC­TO­RIA WINGATE

An empty ta­ble sat in the mid­dle of the room in trib­ute to those who were prison­ers of war, miss­ing in ac­tion, or killed in ac­tion. Each el­e­ment of the set­ting holds sym­bolic mean­ing.

A ta­ble dis­play of mil­i­tary gear ac­com­pa­nied the NAACP logo.

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