Although they represent only 12.3% of the American population according to the Census Bureau, black people have contributed enormous heroism to the American military. These 5 black members of the United States armed forces exemplify the courage, perseverance and honor to which all servicemen and women aspire.
sergeant. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe was known as a “selfless, tough as nails, old school” NCO, but
his selflessness has become the stuff of legend when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was ambushed in Iraq in 2005. The vehicle hit an explosive device and burst into flames, followed by gunfire.
Although injured and soaked in the fuel of the accident,
Cashe dove three times into the burning vehicle under enemy fire to save the trapped soldiers. In the process, his uniform caught fire, causing him second and third degree burns. Despite the burns, Cashe continued to pull soldiers from the vehicle and refused to be placed on the medical evacuation helicopter until all the other injured men had been transported to safety, even though he was most seriously injured.
Later in the hospital,
When Cashe regained consciousness, his first words were, “How are my boys?” The 35-year-old husband and father died three weeks later. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and there is currently a campaign to nominate Cashe for the Medal of Honor. Melvin Morris
On September 17, 1969, Melvin Morris was commanding Third Company, Third Battalion, IV Mobile Strike Force in Vietnam when he led an advance through enemy lines to recover a fallen comrade.
Morris single-handedly destroyed an enemy force who had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers and was shot three times as he ran to friendly lines with American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety.
In 1970, Morris was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism in the 1969 battle. After receiving the award, he returned to Vietnam for his second tour.
In 2014, he received the Medal of Honor from President Obama, of which he said, “It was an exhilarating feeling, I just can’t describe it. But I thought to myself that now, I have a lot of work ahead of me because I have a message to share.
In his later years, Morris devoted his time to the education of young people:
“Young children need to know that people are putting their lives on the line for them. every day…I talk to students and people about our heritage, our military and why they should learn history.
Read more: 3 great military speeches to inspire you as a leader Benjamin Davis
Davis received a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross during his service with the Tuskegee Airmen and the Air Force, but what is most extraordinary is not that he earned those decorations, but that
they were only a small part of his many years of dedicated and courageous service. Davis overcame significant hurdles to become a military pilot. He was ostracized as a student at West Point, and when he was commissioned a second lieutenant, the Army had only two black officers: Davis and his father.
In his first years of service,
Davis fought two enemies: military opponents abroad and rampant racism at home. He once held a press conference at the Pentagon to defend the men of his squadron of all-black military pilots when they were unfairly accused of poor performance. Eventually, Davis became the Air Force’s second black general officer. He left a powerful legacy: In recent years, the US Air Force Academy named an airfield in his honor and West Point named a barracks in his honor. Henry Johnson
Theodore Roosevelt called Henry Johnson one of the “five bravest Americans” of all of World War I, and his actions earned him the nickname “The Black Death”.
Alone in hand-to-hand combat, he prevented the German army from penetrating the French line of defense in the Argonne forest. The History Channel explains what happened the night of his heroic stand:
Johnson and another soldier, Needham Roberts of New Jersey, were serving as sentries on the night of May 4, 1918, when German snipers began firing at them. Johnson began throwing grenades at the approaching Germans; hit by a German grenade, Roberts could only pass more small bombs to Johnson to lob the enemy. When he ran out of grenades, Johnson began to fire his rifle, but it quickly jammed when he tried to insert another round. By then the Germans had surrounded the two soldiers and
Johnson used his rifle like a club until the butt broke. He saw the Germans attempt to take Roberts prisoner and charged them with his only remaining weapon, a bolo knife.Johnson stabbed one soldier in the stomach and another in the ribs, and was still fighting when more French and American troops arrived on the scene, causing the Germans to withdraw. When reinforcements arrived, Johnson passed out from the 21 wounds he had sustained during the hour-long battle. In all, he had killed four Germans and wounded 10–20 others, and prevented them from breaking through the French line.
France awarded Johnson the Croix de Guerre with the coveted Palme d’Or for extraordinary bravery for his immense courage in the face of a formidable enemy. Again
Johnson’s story is very tragic. His discharge papers made no mention of his numerous injuries, so he was deemed ineligible for disability compensation after the war. His numerous injuries prevented him from working and supporting his family. His wife and children left him and he died penniless at only 32 years old. His story, however, gained attention decades after his death and he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2015. William Harvey Carney
Carney’s story is extraordinary: Born into slavery, he eventually gained his freedom and, as a young man, joined the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. His heroic actions in 1863 were the first by a black American to earn the Medal of Honor, although he was not awarded the medal until 1900.
To understand the significance of his actions, you must understand the importance of the flag and its bearer during the battles of the Civil War. The role of standard bearer was very dangerous but practically and symbolically critical:
The colors helped soldiers see where their units were in the confused and smoky battlefield. The flag bearers also set the pace of the march, ensuring it was the right length and pace.
Flags were the centerpieces of battle, often resulting in high casualty rates among color bearers and their guards. In addition, the standard bearers did not carry arms, increasing their likelihood of being killed or injured. If a standard bearer was shot down, a member of his guard would immediately pick up the colors in order to avoid the shame of losing one.
For Civil War soldiers,
it was a great honor to hold their flag high, at all costs. So when Confederate bullets felled his regiment’s standard bearer during a charge on Fort Wagner, Sergeant Carney dropped his gun to raise the colorseven though gunshots felled almost all the soldiers around him:
He soon finds himself alone, on the wall of the fort, with bodies of dead and wounded comrades all around him. He knelt down to gather for action, still holding fast the flag while bullets and shrapnel peppered the sand around him.
Under an onslaught of enemy bullets, he seized the flag and tried to rally the regiment, but when he collapsed he fought his way along a treacherous embankment through the sea water, the gunfire and darkness.
He was hit three times by enemy bullets, but nothing caused him to lower the flag.
Finally Carney reached the Union rearguard, where a soldier offered to relieve him of the colors. Carney replied that
he “wouldn’t give them to anyone if he didn’t belong to the 54th regiment”. When Carney finally collapsed in a Union field hospital, badly injured and exhausted beyond description, he had this to say to his comrades: “Boys, I did my homework; the dear old flag never touched the ground. Read more: 4 heroic military chaplains killed in action