A Tuskegee Airman exhibit at the Aces Veterans Museum in Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo).
By Chanel Hill
PHILADELPHIA — The ACES Veterans Museum will be recognizing Buffalo Soldiers and U.S. Colored Troops buried at the Philadelphia National Cemetery on Thursday in honor of Veterans Day.
“The ceremony is not really a speaking program, but the event will be similar to what we see the president do for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” said organizer and air force veteran Deborah Gary.
“A U.S. Colored Troops re-enactor will be standing guard beside the plaque in the cemetery where the colored troops are buried,” she said. “The program itself will be near that plaque.
“The junior ROTC from Martin Luther King High School will be there as a welcoming detachment along the road,” she added. “We will also be having some other things going on at the ceremony as well. It will be a quick solemn program in honor of the veterans.”
Beginning in March 1863, the federal government began actively recruiting Black men for the Union Army.
A few months later, the War Department created the Bureau of United States Colored Troops (USCT), according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs website.
USCT regiments fought in Civil War battles and engagements from Virginia to Texas. Approximately 200,000 black soldiers and sailors served, roughly 10 percent of all Union troops. Twenty-five of these men received the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest military honor
Over 1,000 Buffalo Soldiers, USCT, medal of honor recipients and more are buried in the United States National Cemetery in Philadelphia.
“A lot of people don’t know that we actually have more colored veterans in the Philadelphia National Cemetery than probably anywhere else in the country,” said president and acting director of the ACES Veterans Museum Althea Hankins.
“We continue to honor veterans for not only their service, but also their sacrifice,” she added. “Not just on veterans day, but everyday.”
The ACES Veterans Museum was founded in 2001 with the discovery of Parker Hall, a functional USO for Black soldiers and their families during World War II.
Located at 5801 Germantown Ave. the museum is dedicated to telling the story of Black and minority veterans that served during World War II and their families.
The museum offers virtual and in-person tours, houses artifacts of World War II and hosts the Vietnam Memorial Plaque and commissioned artwork of the African American World War II Medal of Honor Recipients who were honored posthumously.
In 2009, the museum was certified as a Veterans Service Organization by the City of Philadelphia because of their work with Veterans. The museum also has programming and special events throughout the year.
“We felt that it was very important to preserve this monument,” Hankins said. “We’re trying to be declared an official World War Two monument.
“We’re also the site of the Vietnam memorial plaque and that 800 pound structure is outside of the museum,” she added. “We were awarded that in 2016 because of our progressive treatment of Vietnam veterans.”
The ACES Veterans Museum will also host an event following the wreath laying ceremony.
“We have been doing a formal ceremony for over 20 years because everyday is Veterans Day at ACES, but for this particular program we will honor the veterans and families with a series of events during the day,” Hankins said.
“We will have live entertainment and refreshments,” she said. “Every two hours we will be honoring different veterans.
“We will have tours going that day and I think that the people will enjoy that,” she added. “We also have some of the best artifacts for World War II in the country actually at the museum.”
Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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