127th Annual Seminole Indian Scouts Reunion Keynote Address
by Colonel Dan R. Goodrich
(Commander of the 47th Flying Training Wing, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.)
Delivered during the 127th Annual Seminole Indian Scouts Reunion held September 18 & 19, 1999 at Brackettville, Texas.
Good Morning - what a beautiful Texas day for a beautiful ceremony. First, I read in the Del Rio News Herald and am humbled by this... that my good friend Joni Jordan was glad "I took time out of a busy schedule." I truly believe that no schedule is so busy not to take time out to pay homage and our respects to those who have shaped our great nation and certainly the Black-Seminole-Indian-Scouts have done just that. Our country would not be the great country it is without their selfless devotion to duty and downright courage. SO, I'm never too busy to say Thank you. To Joni Jordan and other organizers of this event - Thanks for letting me be a part of it - I am very proud to stand before you representing my country on this special day. A special welcome and good morning to all descendents of this great group of patriotic Americans. Your heritage leaves much to be proud of - the rest of us can learn a great deal about dignity, discipline, and devotion to duty by learning more about the Black-Seminole-Indian-Scouts.
I stand here today on this 127th anniversary of the Black-Seminole Indian Scouts cemetery not to give a speech only about history, but to give a thank you for the patriotism shown by African-Americans in this country despite the hardships they have faced. I want to tell a story that I think most of you have heard. But I want to tell you how this story effected my life and military career, for it is this story that shaped the lives of many and sets an example for all. It is a story of courage, bravery, and selfless devotion to others.
African-Americans have fought for the United States in every war we have been involved with, including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. From the late 1700's through the late 1800's our African-American soldiers were forging a rich military history filled with honor and gallantry. Following a critical battle during the Civil War, Colonel T.W. Higginson, Commander of the 1st Reg. South Carolina Volunteers was quoted as saying, "No officer in this regiment now doubts that the key to the successful prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops."
The Congressional Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military decoration, awarded to 23 African American during the Civil War. Seven of the 23 were awarded for seizing the national colors after the color bearers were killed and proudly bearing them until the battle was over. However, following the Civil War, African Americans still faced very difficult times even in the face of their selfless patriotism.
In this cemetery are buried 4 Medal of Honor winners. Members of the Black-Seminole-Indian-Scouts. These scouts were revered as "the toughest units in the United States Army." Three of the scouts who were awarded the Medal of Honor, earned it for rescuing their commander while under heavy enemy fire. Lt Bullis was their Commander and he was white, but that did not matter to them. They saw a member of their unit in trouble and saved his life. The four Medal of Honor winners were just a few of the many Scouts who served their country and proved themselves in battle as "brave Scouts and splendid fighters."
Following the Indian campaigns, African-Americans continued to serve their country. In WWII, the Army Air Corps, trained African-Americans to fly and designated them the Tuskegee Airmen. Nine hundred sixty-six African-American military aviators flew over 15,000 sorties in defense of our nation. The German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, both feared and admired them for their skill and determination. Following WWII in 1948, President Harry Truman abolished racial segregation in the armed forces. This was a first for our country - the military took the lead in the much delayed integration of our citizens.
During the Vietnam War, African-Americans fought diligently, this time along side of white soldiers. It was the late 60's and even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed, it was a time of much unrest. With their heroism and bravery in combat, African-Americans continued to show that they were fighting for our country, not just themselves. During the Vietnam War 20 African Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor. Seven received it for covering a grenade, which was thrown into a group of soldiers. They gave their own life, in all cases, to spare the soldiers around them.
Eighty-six African-Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor throughout the years. Many more have paid the supreme sacrifice for their country in combat, showing their patriotism and devotion to our great nation. On this, the 52nd Anniversary of the Air Force I think back to how the racial climate has improved over the last 52 years. Is it where we want to be?... Not yet! But, we can all take something from the examples set by, not just the 86 Medal of Honor winners, but by all African-Americans who have fought and in some cases died fighting for the liberties this country holds dear. We can take away, selfless devotion to others, patriotism, and a spirit of unity which sees us all as one country, not as different races.
As a military member, career officer, and citizen of this great nation. I would like to extend my Thanks, to all African-Americans who have fought or still fight for our land of freedom... The United States of America. Especially those we honor today, the Black Seminole Indian Scouts. Our country has been built on the backs of many heroes. None more than the African-American!