In about four months, at the Buffalo and Erie County Navel and Military Park twelve pillars will be standing tall along Marine Drive. Those pillars are the African American Veterans monument. Joining Mercedes Wilson are two men behind the historical monument, Warren Galloway, chairman of the board, and Ronal Bassham, committee meeting.
Warren Galloway says this idea was started by an African American women professional group, the Erie County LINKS chapter. They developed a program where they were developing scrolls of names of African American soldiers who died. He says this led to a conversation they had about where to store it, there was no place to store it and then we decided there needed to be a monument to honor African American veterans. Galloway says “so in the process, we came up with a committee and have been meeting for five years, came up with quick ideas of what we wanted.” He says, “we knew if we wanted a monument, we had to be very careful, if I had a soldier, what about a female soldier, if I had soldier with an M-16, that mean Vietnam, what about the weapons in World War I, World War II, the Civil War, we knew this so we got five bids from local artists of what we wanted and one artist, Johnathon Casey came up with this design honoring twelve pillars. Each pillar honors a war.
Ronal Bassham served in the United States Airforce for 22 years. When asked what this memorial means to him, Ronal Bassham says, “It means that America has the chance to see what the minorities have done for this country. Also, it means you have a chance, if you are still alive, you can bring your family down to see it too.”
Warren Galloway says, “When we have our ribbon cutting, we’ve invited all the top African American leaders.” He says, “Right now our plan is that the ribbon cutting will be on September 24th. We will have a pre-ribbon cutting banquet the Friday before and that Saturday morning we will have the ribbon cutting. We are inviting the top African American military leaders along with political leaders and we even sent an invitation to the President and Vice President that hopefully they will see this great honor and put it on their schedule to come.”
Mercedes says it is a history lesson while honoring. Both gentlemen say “yes” and Warren Galloway says, “Part of our display is that we are selling brick pavers as a way of fundraising but each brick paver will have the name of an African American veteran, when they served and notes that families are buying, so that part we are honoring. There will be a lifetime display where you can see the name you represented but also, we realize that there is the education component to this. The major reason is that not many people realized that African Americans participated in every war that this country had from the Revolutionary War to where we are today in spite of every promise, we are given that if you help us, you’ll get your freedom. We know that never happened because the military wasn’t segregated until 1946 and in spite of this, World War I, World War II, War of 1812, the Civil War, we answered the call of battle and we were fighting two wars, the war against the enemy and the war against racism in this country.
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