What explains the Black vet's willingness to serve, fight and die for a country with such a difficult history?
As a military veteran and Black American, I can say with great pride, we exemplify the word ”patriotism.” There is no better time than Black History Month to remind all Americans of the 200-year struggle for freedom, equality and our patriotic duty. Often not highlighted, however, is the special history of service performed by America's Black veterans. There has been no war fought by or within the United States in which Black soldiers did not serve — from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam and, more recently, the wars in the Persian Gulf. I served in the United States Army during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and at times asked, "Why have so many Black veterans served abroad while having few civil rights at home?”
World War II saw Blacks enlist by the thousands, eager to combat Nazism at sea, in the air and on land. Their eagerness to stand up and serve grew when veterans, like the Tuskegee Airmen, pressed for the opportunity to fight alongside their white counterparts. Often these requests were denied and the Black soldier was relegated to menial servant duties versus front line action.
During the Korean War, Black soldiers finally shared foxholes with their fellow white soldiers in an effort to stem the rolling tide of communism. War-time bonds were formed between Blacks and whites, though many returned home to a segregated South.
During the Vietnam War, Black service members fought in the dense jungles of Southeast Asia with full knowledge that the fight for civil rights was taking place at home.
Undeterred by the treatment of Black soldiers during wars past, many of us fought with pride in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
What explains the Black vet's willingness to serve, fight and die for a country with such a difficult history? The most plausible answer is that we are committed patriots who believe in America and its ability to be the shining city on the hill.
On Feb. 20, at the African-American Civil War Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Republican National Committee will honor America’s Black veterans and the nation would do well to follow suit.
As a Black veteran and Gulf war veteran, I am proud to have served, standing by America with unconditional patriotism and commitment for the best possible future for our nation. I salute all of our Black veterans this month – all true patriots – asking that you join me and the RNC in doing the same.
Clarence Mingo was appointed and later elected Franklin County Auditor in Ohio. He is also a veteran of the United States Army and a Republican.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore)