By Derek K. Galloway –
It has been said, “You can judge the quality of a country by the number of people trying to enter its borders.” Despite the many hurdles that exist in our nation, without question the U.S. offers freedom, and opportunities found no where else in the world. Such privileges did not come without a price to pay.
Of course, this cost was paid in large part by a core group of Americans, the service men, and women of the armed forces.
Last month, the armed forced came from all branches of the military to be honored at the 40th Annual Veterans Luncheon held at the Stratton Center at Bordwell Park .
These veterans served in campaigns dating from World War II until present day tours in Afghanistan. The gala which was hosted by the NAACP chapter of Riverside gave the community an opportunity to show their appreciation for the sacrifices made.
The Veterans, young and old, donned various military decor with medal of distinction.
Their uniforms were wonderfully adorned ranging from fatigue to marine, and navy blue. “I believe if people had the opportunity to experience what we went through back, then, there would be more of an appreciation,” says Navy Veteran Bill Bufkin. His service in the military over 50 years ago came at a time when this country openly engaged in segregation. This is a sobering reminder that great acts of sacrifice are often met with reproach.
Bufkins quiet, unassuming demeanor that exudes the countenance of something that all the honorees appear to have in common. It was a humble, yet powerful spirit that is exemplified in great men, and women of faith. It is those same qualities that has lent this same Bill Bufkin to soar as a member of The Gospel Music Hall of Fame’s Pilgrim Travelers. Bufkin reflects, “While driving my sister to the Living Gospel Choir in Detroit, I was attracted to the music, and girls there. And the rest is history.”
The contribution of African Americans is at the cornerstone to our nation’s military success.
William Collier is a member of the 1402 Combat Engineers. They were one of the last regiments to serve in the Korean War. “Our participation went a long way in the cause for integration in the military. There were so many casualties amongst both black and white soldiers it got to the point where it didn’t matter what color the troops were, as long as they were able to help, “says Collier.”
His military roots run even deeper. Both his father William Collier, Sr. , and uncle Ernest Collier served as members of the elite all Black regiment, the Buffalo Soldiers. At the close of the Civil War, the U.S. army formed regiments of Black men. Their calvary units were the 9th and 10th Calvary, along with the 24th and 25th Infantry Units.
These men served their country with integrity, and distinction during the Indian Wars in the South West, as well as the Pershing Mission. It was here the last independent Horse Calvary in 1916, went into action against an enemy (most notably Pancho Villa). Their participation went on into World War I. Collier points out, “The name Buffalo Soldiers was not given as an insult. Moreover, it described the bravery, and courage of the revered buffalo often resembled the course hair characteristic of many African-American men.”
Our country is better because of the brave efforts of our women veterans, including women like Lieutenant Colonel Laraine Hall who served valiantly in Desert Storm. She offers these thoughts for others who are pressing towards a goal, “Remain focused on whatever your dreams are, and be determined.” This strong women of stature with ladylike grace continues, “I credit my mother who is the real general, and the Lord for my success!”
For soldiers who are no longer with us, the legacy they left of giving back continues on in their children. Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean is the daughter of Joe Acevedo Ramirez, a Technical Sargent in the Army. He served with General MacArthur in 1944. In addition, her uncle Corporal Rudy Hernandez was also a hero who fought in Korea. In 1969, he received a Congressional Medal of Honor. “My dad instilled that you don’t have to ask, stand up for your home, God, and country. Home gives us our values, God who gives us faith, and country which gives us equal opportunity,” Dr. Ramirez-Dean states.
Dr. Ramirez has 38 years of educational and leadership experience with credentials that would rival and humble any elected official. This year she plans to run for San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. She would be the first woman of color to hold such a position in over 100 years in this county. “My love is education. My priority is quality education for all students, my goal is for all teachers to teach and students to learn. My satisfaction will be to know I have done my best with the help of parents, educators, and students,” Dr. Ramirez-Dean says.
As we celebrate on veterans we also reflect on the faith, sacrifice, and cost connected with service. In many regards, they demonstrated the impact individuals can accomplish when committed to a common good. A notion not unfamiliar to Wadieur Hughes, as the President of NAACP Chapter of Riverside she reminds us, “A lifetime of service requires staying power.” She challenges others to uphold the baton that many have passed before. She warns that burn out can be common. “If your drive is to receive constant praise and awards you will be quite discouraged,” Hugh says. In this country we have witnessed how far our nation has come when it elected our first African-American Commander In Chief, President Barack Obama. A victory that was that many of our veterans thought they would never live to see.