As we get ready to celebrate Memorial Day in our nation I want to pay tribute to the first African American soldier to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, Sergeant William Harvey Carney. He was awarded the medal on May 23, 1900, for his bravery on July 18, 1863. He was fighting for the Union as a member of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. The medal of honor is, of course, our nation’s highest award for bravery in the face of battle. His unit was formed in early 1863, as a new approach for having African American regiments in the Union army.
The Sergeant fought against a barrage of cannon and rifle fire, as he and his brothers fought their way to the top of a fort they were trying to capture. He was wounded there while planting the U.S. flag. Despite his wounds, the Sergeant would not retreat. The 54th lost 281 of its 600 men that day. Sergeant Carney eventually recovered and was discharged with disability on June 30, 1864.
Color and race are still in the news with people like Stiviano and Cuban making remarks that stir controversy. But bravery has no color. I honor all people of color who have fought, died, and lived through the struggle for freedom in our nation. We are in debt to the men and women who live their lives with in an effort to protect liberty. Whether we relax or work on Memorial Day, pause and remember the bravery and sacrifice of men and women in uniform – past and present. Yes, and celebrate freedom which always has a cost.
“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.” Franklin D. Roosevelt