By Pfc. Angel Washington
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
Civilians and soldiers of all ranks, ethnicities and backgrounds enthusiastically observed the Buffalo Soldier displays as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech echoed softly in the background.
"Long Knife" soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, hosted a Black History Month observance honoring the legacy of the Buffalo Soldier in the Operation Iraqi Freedom Memorial Dining Facility on Feb. 19.
The Army started to establish African-American regiments in 1866. The members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment were given the nickname, "Buffalo Soldiers" by the Native American tribes they encountered in combat for their curly hair, skin color, and tenacious fighting spirit. The nickname Buffalo Soldier was later used to refer to all African-American soldiers who served in the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments as well as the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments.
"If it wasn't for the Buffalo Soldiers, the westward expansion would have been delayed, I believe 50 years," said retired Staff Sgt. Joe Glover, who currently works with The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
The Buffalo Soldiers' duties included building railroads, forts, and securing locals from Native Americans.
Although the Buffalo Soldiers worked under adverse conditions, this did not discourage them; it only drove them to work harder.
"They had many hassles but that didn't deter them a lot, it actually made them stronger," said Glover. "They took pride in their uniform and strived to be all that they could be."
Retired Battalion Sgt. Maj. James Williams, who is the last of the Buffalo Soldiers, served in both the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments.
"It's an honor to have troops recognize something they've never seen before," said Williams.
Joining the Army at the age of 15, Williams said, "I always wanted to wear the uniform; I could see what pride stood for."
Williams, who served in the military for 21 years, fought in the Korean War as well as the Vietnam War.
"The uniform makes you who you are and you make it what it is," Williams said.
Williams, dressed in his cavalry uniform with a buffalo patch on his left arm, airborne and ranger patch on his right, and a yellow stripe going down the side of his uniform pants, added, "It (the uniform) shows you a pride you wouldn't had been able to see."
Wayne DeHart, an actor with the Buffalo Soldier Museum, pulled out a cloth and started shining his U.S. engraved belt buckle as he relived the life of a Buffalo Soldier.