Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When I was a very young girl I watched black and white World War II movies. The heroes in the movies I watched all seemed larger than life and so romantic – I often imagined myself in a military uniform. I suppose I was destined to follow my brother’s example and enlist in the navy. Fortunately, thanks to the service of the black men and women including my brother, who served during the World War II, I had opportunities that were unavailable to my brother.

Through the years I have studied much about World War II, and the role black men and women played in defending our country, in spite of the segregation that generation endured. I also have come to understand and appreciate that generation's valuable gift to my generation. Indeed, I would not have had the opportunity to serve in the navy and travel to exotic places if not for the selfless service of the 1.2 million black service men and women of my brother's generation. They fought two wars. One was to protect our country's freedom. But, the second required them to fight for the right – the very opportunity – to fight for their country. Their struggle proved that they were relentlessly loyal Americans. Their story is moving.

The story of black World War II service members is not just a black story; this is an American story. This is the story of ordinary Americans who loved their country and in spite of their invisibility, were willing to risk their lives defending freedoms they did not enjoy. They had a unique insight into the dangers Nazism, Fascism and Imperialism represented. The late actor, Ossie Davis, a WW II veteran himself summed it up when he said, "This was our country and we were under attack – we had to fight," in his role as Lorenzo Dufau in the 2005 movie Proud.

They were on the outside looking in, noses pressed against the glass, stamping their feet in the chill, watching the festivities within. Invisible warriors had an aching need to make others recognize them but often found that such attempts rarely succeeded

Their stories are a compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit to endure against remarkable odds. Their commitment to their country is inspiring particularly in view of the discrimination they lived through. They set the example for future generations to follow. They also came home from the war invigorated and ready to revitalize the civil rights movement, thus making it possible for a starry eyed, little farm girl like myself to follow my dream and become a sailor in the greatest navy in the world.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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