24th Infantry Regiment Soldiers, historical sites remembered
(FORT BENNING, Ga) M.G. Miller gives opening remarks at the Black History Month Celebration February 19, 2016 at Derby Auditorium. Mr. James Thompson, National President, 24th Infantry Regiment Association was the guest speaker. (Photos by: Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)
This is an edited copy of the story published in the Feb. 24 Bayonet and Saber. Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Metheny was misquoted in the original story.
What Command Sgt. Maj. Metheny said is powerful: it represents the Army, Army values and that the Army has been the leader in social justice. Soldiers don’t see color and if they do, it’s green.
We are very sorry for the mistake.
Lori Egan, Bayonet and Saber editor
The story follows with the correction.
By Vanessa Marquette, Bayonet & Saber /
“The people who walked before us … built our Army and built our nation through their actions,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, Fort Benning commanding general, as he described the importance of former military professionals during the Black History Month observance on Feb. 19.
The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Equal Opportunity Office hosted the Black History Month Special Ethnic Observance and Monument Ceremony at Nett Hall, a building that served as the playhouse for African-American Soldiers during segregation, particularly the 24th Infantry Regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class James Thompson, 24th Infantry Regiment Association National president, was the guest speaker. His awards include a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Thompson said there have been a lot of rumors about the regiment, calling them cowards during their experience in Korea, and he planned to set them straight.
“The 24th Infantry Regiment did not throw their weapons down, they did not run,” he said. “We had 28 (privates first class), 128 Silver Stars, over 300 Bronze Stars, over 5,000 Purple Hearts and 100 percent combat infantry badges … now is that a coward?
“The 24th Inf. Regt. is the highest decorated regiment,” he added. “You can’t find a better organization than the 24th.”
He then introduced members present in the audience, and ended his speech with the poem “Freedom is Not Free.”
Following the speech, Miller gave a token of appreciation to Thompson and thanked him for his service. Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Metheny then spoke of Black History Month.
“Sixty-70 years ago, this wasn’t going to work. Racial integration would destroy our military; and, today, on your shoulders, ladies and gentlemen, we have the strongest military on the face of the earth,” Metheny said. “We can go anywhere; we can defeat anybody because we stick together. And the bond of brotherhood is not based on the color of your skin but based in hardship, shared suffering and common understanding.”
The event continued with the unveiling of the 24th Inf. Regt. (Colored) sign and the Indianhead Housing area sign, and ended with singing the Army song.
James Williams, who served as a Sgt. 1st Class in the 24th Inf. Regt., traveled from Chicago to show his support for the 24th Inf. Regt.
“I haven’t been to Benning in so long and it’s part of our home; there’s a lot of history here, and I like to keep abreast on things like that,” he said. “It brings back a lot of memories.”
Anise Thorpe and Chrystal Jones came in honor of their father, the Rev. Clyde Jones, who is a retired sergeant and the Chaplain of the 24th Inf. Regt. Association. He received a Purple Heart for his service in Korea.
The sisters participate in the Buffalo Soldiers’ reunions each year. Jones said her father has gotten closure by attending the reunions, and he even found a former Soldier he played football with 50 years ago.
“I call these gentlemen my fathers,” Jones said. “It’s wonderful they get together and we hear the stories … it’s wonderful for me and my sisters to be a part of it.
“Every year they reunite, East Coast to West Coast,” she added. “They’re a blessing and we are just trying to keep the information out because a lot of people don’t know who they (Buffalo Soldiers) are and what they did.”
Following the event, there was a “Hallowed Grounds: Fort Benning Sites of African American Memories” tour, where all attendees were given a windshield tour of the famous African-American historical sites on Fort Benning. Sites included:
2nd Lt. Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. Suite: Davis and his wife, Elnora, resided in the right side of the duplex from September 1936 to June 1938. He was the first black officer to reside in white officer quarters on the installation. Davis was one of the first five graduates of the Tuskegee Institute, known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
555th Parachute Infantry Battalion (Triple Nickel) Monument: A dedication to the first black paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, also known as Triple Nickel, 1943-1947. The monument was re-dedicated to the 3rd Battalion, 505 Airborne Infantry Regiment in December 1947.
Indianhead Housing Area: Created in 1933, the housing area was developed to provide housing to black NCOs and their Families. The houses were similar to white NCO houses constructed before desegregation and integration in the Armed Forces.
Walter Morris House: 1st Sgt. Walter Morris lived here from 1943-44. He was the first black Soldier selected for parachute duty and the first Senior NCO of the 555th Parachute Infantry Company.