by Kathy Gallowitz and Lionell Hardy
In honor of Black History Month, let us reflect on the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. One tradition that runs deep in many African American families is the tradition of military service. My friend Lionell Hardy is a third-generation Army Veteran who proudly continued the tradition of military service started by his grandfather in World War II and furthered by his father during the Vietnam era.
Lionell’s family’s history of service is not unique. Many African American families have followed suit, dating back to the Revolutionary War when thousands of enslaved Africans fought for the colonists’ freedom. Despite facing racism and discrimination, African Americans have continued to serve our country with honor and distinction throughout history, from the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II to the first black Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd Austin.
Reflecting on Lionell’s family’s history of military service, we are reminded of the importance of serving our country. Military service is not just a job – it’s a calling, a commitment to something greater than oneself. It is an opportunity to give back to our country, protect our freedoms and way of life, and positively impact the world.
But military service is not just crucial for African Americans. It is vital for all Americans. The military is a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, united by a common purpose. It is an opportunity to work alongside people from all walks of life and to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of our diversity and freedom.
Furthermore, military service provides invaluable training, education, and career opportunities. The military offers various jobs, from combat roles to administrative positions, and provides extensive training and education to help individuals succeed as people and in their chosen career fields. Military service uniquely instills essential values such as discipline, leadership, and teamwork, attributes highly valued both in the military and civilian workforce.
As with any profession, military service has had its challenges. Racism and discrimination were persistent issues in the military, with African Americans often facing barriers to advancement and unequal treatment. Despite these challenges, African Americans have risen above them and serve with honor and distinction, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations.
As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember the contributions of African American service members and their families, who have sacrificed so much for our country. Let us also recognize the importance of military service for all Americans and the valuable opportunities it provides.
By wearing the military uniform ourselves and/or serving those who serve our country, we honor our past and shape America’s future, building a stronger, more united and inclusive nation. When less than 1% of America’s citizens serve in the military, what can you do as a civilian Veteran Champion to improve quality of life, workforce and community for all service members, Veterans and their families.
Learn how to become a Veteran Champion here.