Black History Month: a time to honor and share
Dear American Legion Family members and friends,
America’s story is written in the sweat and blood of military heroism, valor and service – the willingness and ability to train, fight and die if necessary for the principles of justice, freedom and democracy. Since the American Revolution, that story has been authored by men and women of multiple backgrounds. For too long, however, the role of Black Americans in our nation’s military journey has been under-told, mis-told, forgotten or, worse, deliberately hidden.
The American Legion has persistently called for reconsideration of military medals and citations that were previously denied or diminished in stature, potentially due to racial discrimination of the past.
Since Congress began mandating such reviews in the 1990s through the Defense Authorization Act, 30 Medals of Honor have been awarded to previously overlooked Black veterans of World War II.
In October 2020, The American Legion National Executive Committee passed a resolution in support of legislation “to lift statutes of limitations and other obstacles that may impede proper investigation and appropriate actions for minority veterans of all wars and conflicts whose military records and official descriptions of combat actions fully support consideration for award of the Medal of Honor and any other military medal.”
And now — February 2023, Black History Month — I truly believe we can take the spirit of that resolution a few steps further. Multiple web platforms now exist to study and collect the stories of all veterans and one in particular, at the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War, is focused on correcting the record for minority veterans of World War I. The American Legion and the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission support the center’s research and database, titled “Stories of Courage, Tenacity, and Valor Told.”
Black History Month is also an ideal time to submit stories and photos to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. We also strongly encourage female veterans and their families to contribute their stories to the Military Women’s Memorial registry. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund also offers opportunities to share stories and images of those whose names are enshrined in the Wall. Dozens of other searchable sites are available to complete the picture of our nation’s military heritage and to learn from it.
The American Legion also continues to collect stories and photos from veterans and their families through the Legiontown platform, which has categories ranging from MY WORLD WAR II STORY to Memories of Basic Training, and Black History Month is a great time to add to the growing list of submissions. These contributions not only strengthen our commitment to “preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars,” they also fill in gaps that Black History Month and other such recognitions aim to improve today and, most importantly, for generations to come.
Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola