In a letter to President Barack Obama, the National Coalition of Black Veterans Organizations (NCBVO) asks that during the celebration of Black History Month in February– a presidential proclamation be issued that elevates legendary Buffalo Soldier Col. Charles Young to the honorary rank of Brigadier General.
Col. Young was medically discharged from the U.S. Army on Jan. 22, 1917, but he was recalled in 1918 after riding 500 miles to demonstrate his fitness to serve on active military duty.
“We are firm in our belief that the honor we are seeking on his behalf was earned over a career that spanned more than thirty-two years of honorable service to our nation (1889 – 1922),” a portion of the letter dated Jan. 22, reads. “We are joined in this request by resolutions from the Commonwealth of Kentucky House of Representatives (the birth state of Colonel Young), the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, the Council of the District of Columbia and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
The letter, which was signed by NCBVO chairman Charles Blatcher III, goes on to state that “as the third Black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Young’s accomplishments were numerous.
“They included becoming the first Black military attache, the first Black Superintendent of a National Park, and the first Black soldier promoted to both the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel as well as Colonel. He also distinguished himself in command positions during the Philippine Insurrection and General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition. During the latter event, his courageous actions under fire resulted in the rescue of the 13th Cavalry. Colonel Young was the highest ranking African American in the military at the outset of the First World War and until his death in 1922.”
In alluding to action taken in 1956 by President Harry Truman, NCVBO further notes that this would not be the first time such a request was made.
“In 1925, Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell was court martialed, reduced in rank to colonel and discharged from the United States Army,” the letter continues. “He was charged with “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and in a way to bring discredit upon the military service. Ten years after his death in 1946, President Harry S. Truman posthumously promoted then Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell to the rank of Major General.”
California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who will also be writing Obama on Young’s behalf, said in a statement that Black History Month is a “particularly fitting time” to bestow the posthumous honor on Young.
“Colonel Young was a true trailblazer; in a time when the obstacles he faced due to the color of his skin seemed insurmountable, his achievements were astounding,” Lee said.
“This is why I will be sending a letter to President Obama requesting a presidential proclamation promoting Colonel Young to the rank of Brigadier General.”