Who is this man? Why is he important to us in terms of history, especially on this day of observance of those who have died and served their country?
The man is Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr., a distinguished and loyal United States military man who began his service in the Spanish American War. After serving in both World War I and II, he was tapped as an advisor for the purpose of being a de-segregationist of the U.S. military during World War II in the European arena.
He had a colorful career and was among those referred to as the Buffalo Soldiers (a most notable group of Black military men) and ultimately reached the rank of Brigadier General.
During Black History Month and a few weeks thereafter, it was interesting to not only read but also see dramatic representations of the attitudes toward soldiers of color. Their determination to be among those on the front lines in combat while face the very real danger of being killed in the line of fire was palpable in every line of dialogue among the male characters. In each instance, be they Japanese, Native American, Hispanic, or Black, they were denied the privilege of offering their blood, their limbs, their very lives to demonstrate that they were just as loyal and just as American as their White counterparts. Maybe that was a good thing in light of the fact that it meant they were more likely to go home intact to their wives and families. But staying in the shadows didn't show the world, let alone the White comrades, their willingness to stand and be counted as just as accountable, just as brave, just loyal to their country.
These were the ones who because of their cultural backgrounds were able to develop strategies that confused and confounded the enemy while allowing the U.S. forces to gain the upper hand. They wanted the opportunity to be used to their highest and best in service to their country and to freedom rather than relegated to the status of background players and mere servants. They fought a double battle not only on foreign soils but also an enduring one at home -- to be recognized and allowed. What an irony that their combat was not only for life and freedom of those being persecuted by the enemy but also for the freedom to be, live, and fairly compete for their day in the sun against, of all people, their fellow countrymen of another color.
But let us return to the original question. Who is this man, this Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.? He is the man who served his country through three wars and over more than 50 years. He is the man who was pivotal in beginning the disintegration of the walls of racial barriers in the U.S. military, making it possible for each man to hold his chest high in presentment of the salute because he was standing in valorous service and full representation of his country. And he is even more.
Yvonne LaRose, CAC