Tag: African Americans in the military

Retired Marine John Canley to Receive Medal of Honor 50 years after his Heroics During Vietnam War

Retired Sgt. Major John Canley (photo via stripes.com)

via stripes.com

A Marine credited with saving the lives of countless members of his company during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War will receive the Medal of Honor, thanks to the efforts of a congresswoman and a group of Marines who witnessed his heroics.

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who lives in the coastal community of Oxnard, California, will receive the nation’s highest military honor. An official announcement from the White House is expected once a date for the presentation is confirmed. Canley initially received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, for his actions overseas.

According to his Navy Cross citation, Canley — then a gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines — displayed extraordinary leadership and selflessness during the Battle of Hue in early 1968.

After his company’s commander was seriously wounded, Canley sprang into action and immediately took control of his fellow Marines. Over the course of the weeklong siege, Canley successfully neutralized enemy combatants and brought injured Marines to safety, despite sustaining several shrapnel injuries. “Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men,” the citation reads. “And [he] exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement.”

John Ligato, one of the Marines who fought alongside Canley in Vietnam, called him “totally fearless.” “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”

Canley’s road to the Medal of Honor was a long one, requiring the intervention of several dedicated Marines and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. Ligato and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines spent nearly 15 years pushing for Canley to be recognized with the honor, only to see the effort met with more than 10 rejections.

“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told military.com. “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”

In 2014, one of the Marines reached out to Brownley, who represents Canley’s district, and it was with her help that the Department of Defense offered to review the recommendation to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross.

“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a written statement. “He is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our Armed Forces the best military in the world.”

To read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/marine-to-receive-medal-of-honor-50-years-after-battle-of-hue-heroics-1.538583

U.S. Navy Finally Joins Army, Air Force and Marines in Lifting Ban on Dreadlocks for Women

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak hid her locs under a wig for years before fighting to lift the Navy’s dreadlocks ban. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUALYNN LEAK)

by Kenya Downs via huffingtonpost.com

The United States Navy is joining the Marines, Army and Air Force in ending its ban on dreadlocks for female sailors. The naval branch announced the reversal Tuesday in a live broadcast on its Facebook page.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says the change won’t just make the Navy more formidable, but also more inclusive.

The Navy enlisted a six-person working group to recommend changes to grooming standards, based on feedback from their peers. As part of the decision, ponytails, buns and other styles will also be permissible for women in uniform so long as they don’t interfere with a sailor’s operational or safety needs. Male sailors are still required to keep their hair short.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacqualynn Leak, a member of the working group, has worn dreadlocks since 2014. She led efforts to reverse the ban and says her fight involved years of research on the cultural and health aspects of wearing locs. She also surveyed dozens of female sailors affected by the ban.

“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she said.

Before, Leak opted to cover her shoulder-length dreadlocks by wearing a wig, which she says became more difficult as her hair grew. Options were even more limited for other female sailors. Some were forced to choose between cutting off their dreadlocks in favor of chemically straightened hair, or facing harsh punishment.

In 2014, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Sims, a hospital corpsman, was honorably discharged for refusing to cut off locs she’d worn in a tight-knit bun for over a decade.

While challenges to military rules on hairstyles aren’t new, controversy surrounding black hair reached a peak around the time of Sims’ discharge. As word spread, revisions to Army grooming regulations were leaked, revealing proposed changes to ban hairstyles common among women of color. The proposed policy, called AR 670-1, would have banned all natural hairstyles, including twists, braids, cornrows and Afros.

Many criticized the regulations as specifically targeting black women. Once it had been made public, the policy faced immediate backlash, culminating in an open letter from the Congressional Black Caucus and an official review ordered by the Pentagon. The decision was ultimately reversed.

But that reversal didn’t include dreadlocks. First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the U.S. Army National Guard has been fighting for servicewomen’s right to wear them ever since. Together with fellow soldiers, Andrews began a campaign to challenge misconceptions many within the military have about dreadlocks’ cleanliness, cultural relevance and ease of use.

Leak enlisted Andrews for guidance when deciding to take on the Navy. Andrews says the Navy’s announcement is the final triumph signaling a victory for military diversity.

“When news broke that the Army lifted the ban on locs, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a complete win until all of the branches authorize them,’” she said. “The unique challenges African-American servicewomen faced with trying to adhere to grooming policies were universal across the Department of Defense.”

This week’s decision makes the Navy the last branch of the military to drop grooming regulations that prohibit dreadlocks. The Marines first approved locs for women in 2015, and the Air Force announced late last year that dreadlocks would become an approved hairstyle after a review by its uniform board. The Army authorized dreadlocks for women earlier this year after having previously banned them since 2005.

GBN Wishes You and Yours a Happy Veteran’s Day

(image via thehoustonblackpages.com)

To all who are serving, who have served and have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and to your families, thank you. Your lives and efforts are greatly appreciated and of inestimable value to us all. Happy Veteran’s Day!

1st Black Men to Integrate U.S. Marines Honored 75 Years Later

John Thompson, Cleo Florence, Robert Thomas and Mack Haynes were honored on Saturday for their service as Marines. (WFMY)

by Taryn Finlay via huffingtonpost.com

The first African Americans to ever serve in the United States Marine Corps were honored on Saturday during a special ceremony at Joe C. Davidson Park in Burlington, North Carolina. For the 75th anniversary of Montford Point Marine Day ― which marks the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to intregrate the Marines ― the Corps honored the black men who were trained at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina to become Marines in the 1940s.

Between 1942 and 1949, more than 20,000 servicemen received their basic training at Montford Point, according to the Camp Lejeune Globe. About 300 of them are still alive. Four of those men ― John Thompson, Cleo Florence, Robert Thomas and Mack Haynes ― were in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony, the Burlington Times News reports. “When I went in in 1947, how things was then and how things have progressed and how they are today… there’s been a great change, but there still be more change and we may be able to have one nation under God and one people.”

To read full article and to see video, go to: First Black Men To Enlist As Marines Honored 75 Years Later | HuffPost

ASU History Professor Matthew Delmont Wins Guggenheim Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II

ASU Professor Matt Delmont (photo via twitter.com)

via jbhe.com

Matthew Delmont, a professor of history and Director of the School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies at Arizona State University, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship that will allow him to conduct research on how African American viewed World War II at the time the war was being waged.

“African-Americans rallied around something called the ‘double-victory campaign,’ which meant victory over fascism abroad and victory over racism at home,” Professor Delmont said. “There was a great amount of hope that by proving their patriotism, by proving their service to the country in World War II, things would be different once they got home. In a lot of cases, that didn’t happen.” Dr. Delmont will conduct interviews but he notes that “Black newspapers will be one of the main sources. They had war correspondents embedded in Europe and Asia, and they were dodging enemy fire to bring these stories to the communities in the U.S.”

Professor Delmont is the author of several books including Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation (University of California Press, 2016) and The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia (University of California Press, 2012). The tentative title for the book that he hopes will come from this research is To Live Half American: African Americans at Home and Abroad During World War II.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Professor Delmont is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in American studies at Brown University. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 2014 after teaching for six years at Scripps College in Claremont, California.

Source: Arizona State Historian Wins Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

U.S. Army Finally Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks, Black Service Members Rejoice

(photo via atlantablackstar.com)

article by Tanasia Kenney via atlantablackstar.com

After years of being forced to chose between their hair and staying within regulation, African-American servicewomen in the United States Army are praising revised grooming policies that’ll allow them to don dreadlocks. The Army announced plans to lift the ban on locs early last month in a directive that largely focused on grooming policy changes that pertained to religious accommodations, according to The New York Times.

Buried in the memo was text stating that female service members would now be permitted to wear “dreadlocks/locs,” as long as the strands are less than 1/8 inch wide, the scalp grid is uniformed and neat, and, when gathered, all the hair fits into the authorized bun size of 3 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep, as stated under Army Regulation 670-1.

The change was happily welcomed by African-American servicewomen, who, in April 2014, were outraged after the Army enacted policies that explicitly prohibited locs, twists, braids and other protective hairstyles common in the African-American community. Many argued that the regulations were confusing, discriminatory and left Black servicewomen with little hairstyle options while in uniform.

To read more, go to: U.S. Army Finally Lifts Ban on Dreadlocks, Black Service Members Rejoice – Atlanta Black Star

Take Nneka, a 27 Year-Old Single Mom and Veteran, Creates Line of Black-Themed School Supplies

Innovative Supplies notebook (photo via xnnovativesupplies.net)

article by Erickka Sy Savane via madamenoire.com

You’ve been thinking about starting a business and every time you come close to doing it your mind hits the brakes. If that’s you, keep reading and you’ll think again about hesitating. Take Nneka, a 27-year-old single mom fresh out of the military for example. She recently launched Innovative Supplies, a line of Black-themed school supplies with notebooks so dope you want to buy 20 for yourself and everyone you know.

Nneka took action and her products sold out. Talk about an entrepreneur’s dream!  According to her website, Nneka is about making a positive change in the community and says that this line is her way to reach out to millennials who seek variety and want to be a part of a bigger cause.

The goals of Innovative Supplies, as stated on the site, are to:

  • Open and deposit profits into an account with black owned Citizens Trust Bank.
  • Donate 40 percent of all profits made from book bag sales to local charities.
  • Provide quality products.
  • Hire local minority youth.
  • Support other small businesses.
  • Use economically sourced materials.
  • Use environmentally friendly packaging.

To read more, go to: This Mom Created A Line Of Black-Themed School Supplies And Everything Sold Out! | MadameNoire

Formerly Homeless Veteran Alicia Watkins Now a Student at Harvard University

U.S. Veteran Alicia WatkinsAlicia Watkins is a retired Air Force staff sergeant who proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She risked her life for the freedom of others, survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and watched her colleagues die. But it wasn’t any of her combat experiences that broke Watkins’ spirit; it was the fact that she retired from the military and found herself homeless.

In 2010, Watkins’ allowed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to document her life as a homeless veteran. Her “kitchen” was a cardboard box of snacks and microwavable meals. Her bed was a car that she rented for $10 a day. Her restrooms were the toilets at various airport hotels.

Watch a clip from Watkins’ eye-opening video diary.

The 10-year veteran was struggling, but even during her low points, she believed that others were struggling more. At one point, Watkins did have housing, but she gave up her room to a homeless mother and her three kids.

“It might have been different had I not seen the children and the babies. So, I decided to be on the street and put them in the room,” Watkins told Oprah five years ago. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Since that emotional interview, a lot has changed for Watkins, who recently sent an update to “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” In the above video, she shares a surprising truth: Until her ‘Oprah Show’ interview aired, Watkins’ friends and family had no idea she was homeless.

“I had… alienated myself from everyone,” she admits now. “They really were shocked when they found out, and they were also just hurt by the fact that I was suffering.”

After the show, Watkins moved in with a family friend. Though she no longer lives in a car, Watkins says that her many health issues have prevented her from being able to work.

“I have traumatic brain injury, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I have a spinal cord injury,” she says. “It’s a hard road. I would love to be able to work today. I have offers, I have people that are willing to help me, but they all have to take a backseat to my health. As much as I want to work, I have to acknowledge that I am a casualty of war.”

With a secure roof over her head, Watkins decided to focus on her education and began applying to colleges.

“I wanted to be able to care for wounded warriors, and so I decided to apply to Harvard University,” she says. “In 2012, I was accepted. My college expenses are paid by the G.I. Bill.”

Watkins’ says that her personal life has really turned around as well.

“I recently got engaged, on my birthday of all days,” she says, smiling. “It is amazing.”

“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

article via huffingtonpost.com

Pentagon Reverses Course: Black Soldiers won’t be Punished for Popular Hairstyles

black-female-soldier-saluting-2012-wide

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement that “conservative” hairstyles popular among black female soldiers will be acceptable according to military grooming standards, Army Times reports.

Last March, the Department of Defense issued new regulations that many African-American servicemen and women claimed were racially biased, especially against black women, who would be forced to use heat or chemical straighteners to achieve an acceptable hairstyle. A number of black women wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus urging them to put pressure on the Department of Defense to change the regulations — and three months later, that is what Chuck Hagel has done.

In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus notifying them of the changes, Hagel wrote that “[e]ach service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting military requirements. These reviews were informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force. Additionally, each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”

The review concluded that the terms “matted and unkempt” when used in reference to African-American hair were “offensive” and eliminated them from the guidelines. The Air Force also determined that the word “dreadlocks” was offensive, and changed the prohibited hairstyle to “locs” in official grooming literature.

Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) responded to Hagel’s decision to expand the range of acceptable hairstyles for black female soldiers by saying that “[t]hese changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces.”

“Secretary Hagel and the Department of Defense not only show they are responsive to the individuals who serve within our military, but that he and his leadership respect them as well,” she continued. “The Congressional Black Caucus commends Secretary Hagel for his leadership in addressing this issue.”

article by Scott Kaufman via rawstory.com

Military Dad Captain Keith Robinson Surprises Daughter Ruby Robinson at her Columbia University Graduation

In video captured by the university, Captain Keith Robinson tells Ruby “Congratulations, young lady,” before giving her a massive hug.  Ruby smiles widely before bursting into tears.

“To have him here in the flesh means so much to me,” Ruby told Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs following the ceremony. “I didn’t expect it all. I didn’t think it was possible. I’m so happy about it.”

Robinson told his daughter two weeks earlier he wouldn’t be able to make it. He’s been deployed for the past six months in Afghanistan, according to the school’s post.

Robinson flew 14.5 hours from Kuwait to Washington, D.C., followed by a flight to Denver, before returning to New York for the big day.

“I haven’t had time to stop and think about it myself,” Robinson said. “But when I saw her, it was like … it was all worth it.”

article via thegrio.com