Call to Duty

I’ve been thinking about all the people who have answered the call to duty for the United States of America, about the sacrifices many of them have made for love of this country. I’ve spent a couple days thinking about a particular group of volunteers that were recruited into the military and served in the Union Army during the Civil War. There were 178,000 of them and 20.5 percent of them died. They fought with distinction and were highly decorated. Fifteen were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

native american veterans in parade

There were 175 regiments of these men and they continued to fight for America until 1951. The regiments would eventually fight in approximately 177 conflicts, including the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, and the Indian Wars that took place just outside the window I’m looking through as I write. They served as park rangers and relief workers in hundreds of disasters. They were exactly the kinds of men and women we are celebrating on this Veterans’ Day.

bison in tall prairie grass in fall

Taken as a whole, they were officially called the United States Color Troops (USCT) but when they served here in the American West, they were nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers. The origins of that name are disputed. Some say it was because many of these brave soldiers had curly hair like a buffalo. Another explanation, and the one I believe in, is that they were named Buffalo Soldiers for their toughness and their willingness to fight for their land. There could be no better symbol of Veterans’ Day for the difficult year of 2020 than the Buffalo Soldiers - the United States Colored Troops.

Photo Credit: Jill O'Brien

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  • Dan, thanks so much for clarifying the make -up of the USCT.

    Linda Clark
  • What Herman writes is true and very carefully said.
    So many of the open wounds of our history swirl around here.
    I appreciate how your company is healing the earth and our nation by restoring something that ‘progress’ nearly extinquished.
    Like Herman, I encourage you to stay with your strengths.

    Denise Gerace
  • And to all the indigenous Americans who likewise followed their exemplary leaders into battle for our country like one Medal of Honor recipient Chief William Alchesay, White Mountain Apache scout who lead Buffalo Soldiers on the trail against hostiles along the southern border.

    Vernon Cross
  • In fact USCT were not just black. They were made up oF Chinese, Mexican, Black, and NATIVE AMERICANS. Every one but White.

    Dan O’Brien
  • As a Caucasian who has “Native American” blood ties, I think Mr. Hudson’s comment a little jaded. First of all, there may not be any USCT vets still alive, as there are also smaller amounts of US Tuskegee vets, who were also African-American. Perhaps also you might consider that since they are in South Dakota, they are honoring Native American vets who served. I don’t know if there is any art available or allowed to be shown without copyright infringement of the real Buffalo Soldiers. Can we not be grateful for all of our vets past and continuing who serve our country to protect it? I’m thankful this company likes “American”… Native American, African-American, and the rest of this mass melting pot inhabiting the USA. W e are FREE because of the BRAVE… no matter color or ethnicity!

    Jackie Cunningham
  • Dear Dan,
    I have enjoyed reading your books about the Great Plains and have gained new insights from your compassionate writing. How about writing a book centered on the Buffalo Soldiers? No doubt you would write a very compelling story!

    Thank you for all you and your family and buffalos do.

    With deep respect,

    Barbara Kraler
  • I also salute our native americans that fought to protect their homelands and then in turn this nation. They were soldiers and have earned the distinction of being veterans as well!

    Eric Johnson
  • A Great tribute!

    Eric Johnson
  • Thank you Jill for this wonderfully informative description of our Veterans.

    MicheleDawn SaintThomas
  • These are images of American Indians who were veterans for the USA. Buffalo Soldiers were African American who fought against the American Indian. I think you could have left out the reference to Buffalo Soldiers to promote the sale of a Buffalo meat.

    Herman Hudson
  • How good to be reminded, especially now, of one of the many contributions to this country made by Black people. At least this is one that was made voluntarily not through slave labor. The great majority of US citizens know little of the true history of the country and what led to its success. Historian Joseph Ellis compared our founding to having begun with a huge endowment: all that land quickly cleared of native peoples and then worked it by thousands of slaves. Talk about a great head start to thriving! Albeit primarily thriving only materially. We are now facing the dark legacy of these original sins. No, our history is far from the the worst among nations but it is time we took the blinders off and looked at our history truthfully and stopped crowing like some immature adolescent about how exceptional we are. Let’s be truly exceptional and own up to our failings and work to better the only race that matters, the human race.

    Linda Clark
  • Thank you for your service, Buffalo Soldiers!

  • amen

    barry j skrobot

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