AV 10th Cavalry trooper rides in Rose Parade
To look at Les Harris, it’s an easy leap to guess that he might have done a bit of soldiering.
Somewhere up in the 6’4”, or more, height range, and built like a lumberjack, another guess would be he spent some time with the Marines.
Both guesses, each in their own way, would be correct.
You will see the soldier in him when he is riding in the Tournament of Roses Parade this New Year’s Day, 2020.
Harris, a retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. and California corrections officer, is also a member of a historic mounted unit of the U.S. Army.
He is a “Buffalo Soldier,” a member of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.
The group is a historic re-enactment group, a nonprofit, that has been preserving the legacy of the historically all African-American 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments.
“This is something we do to honor our past,” Harris said. “It is something we are very honored to be able to do today.”
On New Year’s Eve, he gathered several of his comrades, a couple of whom will be riding with him, astride their cavalry mounts, in the Rose Parade.
They spoke briefly at a weekly coffee gathering for veterans at Crazy Otto’s Restaurant on Avenue I.
“Our story is more than an African-American story,” David Jones, a proud member of the Buffalo Soldiers, who will be riding in the parade today, said. “We are an American story.”
It is a story that continues to this day, long after the units were desegregated by order of President Harry Truman.
“They lived under harsh conditions, yet they mounted-up and rode out,” an official history of the group says. “Buffalo Soldiers fought, died, searched, rescued, protected and demonstrated professionalism by how they did their job. Their presence and actions on the Western frontier provided security for America.”
With its sister unit, the 9th Cavalry, the 10th Cavalry Regiment was organized after the Civil War as a segregated African-American unit.
The 10th Cavalry was one of the original “Buffalo Soldier” regiments in the post–Civil War Regular Army. It served in combat during the Indian Wars in the Western United States, the Spanish– American War in Cuba and in the Philippine– American War.
The 10th Cavalry was reactivated as an integrated combat unit in 1958. Portions of the regiment have served in conflicts ranging from the Vietnam War to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The current structure is by squadron, but with the 1st and 7th Squadrons recently deactivated, the 4th Squadron is the only 10th Cavalry Regiment unit in active service. It is assigned to the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, Colo., according to its official U.S. Army history.
The regiment served during the Spanish– American War in 1898 and were in the same brigade as Teddy Roosevelt’s famed “Rough Riders,” and were with the future president on the hard fight up San Juan Hill.
They fought in the Battle of Las Guasimas, the Battle of Tayacoba (where all four members of the last rescue party were awarded the Medal of Honor), the Battle of San Juan Hill and the Siege of Santiago de Cuba.
“There is a lot that we would not have today, to be who we are, if this group had not done what they did,” Jones told the veterans in Lancaster on Tuesday morning.
Buffalo soldiers, according to History.com, were African American soldiers who mainly served on the Western frontier, following the American Civil War. In 1866, six all-black cavalry and infantry regiments were created after Congress passed the Army Organization Act.
Their main tasks were to help control the Native Americans of the Plains, capture cattle rustlers and thieves and protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews along the Western front. One theory claims the nickname arose because the soldiers’ dark, curly hair resembled the fur of a buffalo.
Another assumption is the soldiers fought so valiantly and fiercely that the Indians revered them as they did the mighty buffalo.
Whatever the reason, the name stuck and African American regiments formed in 1866, including the 24th and 25th Infantry (which were consolidated from four regiments) became known as buffalo soldiers.
The Buffalo soldiers still ride. They will be riding today while millions watch the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Portions of this article came from official Army records and histories. Dennis Anderson is a licensed clinical social worker at High Desert Medical Group. During the Cold War, he served in the 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry, an armored reconnaissance unit that patrolled the border between East and West Germany. Like the 10th Cavalry, the 8th was originally a mounted unit, and its trooper still wear spurs for ceremonial events.
Les Harris, 10th Cavalry, with wife Gwen Harris.