Buffalo Soldiers fight for recognition

Buffalo Soldiers fight for recognition
(Source: Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers)

SIERRA VISTA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The famed Buffalo Soldiers were phased out of the Army when the military was integrated near the beginning of the Korean War.

They were an integral part of the Civil War and the taming of the West as settlers began to move westward in the 1860s and 1870s.

However, their history is not an integral part of the lessons taught in schools and they are all but invisible in textbooks.

"We have a history in America of who writes history," said Billie Holloway, Chairman of the Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers. "And whoever is in charge, writes history."

Holloway was wearing a Buffalo Soldier uniform during the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Southern Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista on a warm, sunlit morning.

He's there as a nearly 40-year member of the armed forces but also to make a point.

"Until we can get in the history books the way it should be," he said. "We will continue to tell our story."

One of those stories is about how the Buffalo Soldiers got their name.

"It was the Native Americans who set us apart and called us the Buffalo Soldiers," he said.

According to Holloway, the Native Americans didn't think the black soldiers would fight.

"Here comes this black soldier with the dark faces and the curly hair and they were wondering why they were fighting us when they got treated so badly by their own people," he said.

But they did fight and fiercely.

"We really felt the Native Americans gave us this title of Buffalo Soldiers out of respect," he said. "One soldier against another soldier."

89-year-old Harlan Bradford tells the same story about how the soldiers were underestimated.

"Hitler and Tojo made a big mistake," he said. "They figured we don't have to worry about the blacks, or whatever they called us, because of the way they're treated, they'll refuse to fight."

Again they did fight and did so valiantly.

But neither man says he is angry about the way they were treated in a segregated military, because it gave them opportunity along with the setbacks.

"Sometimes you have to take two steps forward and then one step back," Holloway said.

The hope is however, that the history of the Buffalo Soldier only moves forward.

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