FRESNO, California (KGPE) — From the Veterans Day parades to memorials across the Central Valley, some say the sacrifice of African American soldiers has largely been ignored.
Veteran Ronald Vance says serving in the military was a way of life.
“Right after the morning prayer, there would be incoming mortars,” Vance recalled.
During a recent talk, Vance spoke about what it was like waking up in Iraq during his second stretch in the military at the age of 50. Vance originally served in the Navy in 1971 and says his 16 years in the Navy had its difficulties.
“Black and white sailors worked great during the daytime, but at nighttime blacks went over here and white went over there,” Vance said.
Once he was discharged Vance noticed that the issues around race continued. He says there was a lack of recognition of veterans in southwest Fresno.
“I’d had always heard about this Veterans Day parade,” Vance explained. “I didn’t get to be in it until 2008.”
Vance recalls being approached by Lisa Daniels, the Executive Director of the “Unsung Heroes Living History Project.” The group highlights the service of African American veterans. Daniels, who now lives in the Sacramento area, graduated from Roosevelt High School spoke about the lack of stories from Black soldiers.
“I wanted to find out more about Blacks in the military but, I couldn’t find anything,” Daniels shared. Her interest in Black soldiers’ stories was piqued after learning that her grandmother was a riveter on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“It blew my mind because she raised me,” Daniels explained.
Recognizing that the sacrifice paid by Black soldiers outpaced the recognition they received, community leader Maxie Parks also shared concerns.
“There isn’t real representation for vets with a connection to west Fresno,” Parks said. “You can go all the way back to the Civil War. We have made contributions, so why aren’t we given the opportunity to recognize those people who have made those sacrifices.”
The Unsung Heroes display features at least 120 veterans and highlights those who are alive and those who have passed on.
“When they come in here they get to see their relatives. They get a chance to see the people they know on a personal basis being given recognition and being honored.” Parks said.