“Soldier Story” connects my story with the past history of how African Americans have always had love of country. African Americans loved the USA even before the USA loved African Americans. African Americans willingly spilled their precious blood fighting for our beloved country.
We fought and we died in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Mexican War, the Indian Wars, Cuba, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
When the country you love hates your black skin, discriminates against you, segregates you, denies your most basic civil rights, and then you march out on a battlefield anyway, and give your life in the defense of that country that hates you, then can there be little wonder that social change in the form of desegregation, equality of opportunity, and plain human decency happens first in the Armed Forces before it does anywhere else in society?
The right to serve our country, and if need be, die for our country, has always been regarded as sacred. It is in our DNA. We know military service to be one of the most legitimate expressions of citizenship. We embrace it unconditionally. It has been, and continues to be, a pathway to freedom, literally and metaphorically, then, and now. This has been true for my family. My uncles served in World War II, a brother and a brother in law served during Vietnam, the Gulf War, and in Afghanistan. Again, my soldier story is not unique. I am but one of many, keeping the tradition of duty, honor, and country that runs all the way back to the first slave who spilled his blood in the defense of the USA.
The Cold War is the historical context for my soldier story, when two great superpowers would bring the world to the brink of nuclear destruction. Thanks to the sacrifices made by the Cold War soldiers of my generation, it never happened. Before I can tell my soldier story, however, I must make the connection to all those who served before me. It is necessary to show that military service has always been an instrument for social change, way before American society as a whole was ready to change its treatment of African Americans, women, and other minorities. Only then does my story find its rightful place, and thus justifies my telling of the story set against the backdrop of its historical context.