Monday is Veterans Day, a day to pause and remember that the freedoms we enjoy have been paid for by the service in harm's way of our country's nearly 22 million veterans.
"African-Americans have served in all of America's wars," according to local historian Jay Graybeal. "Over 10,000 blacks served in the Continental Army and Navy forces. Another 1,000 served with the British. Black seamen fought with great distinction at the critical Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812."
He reported in research that he conducted for the Historical Society of Carroll County in the early 1990s that, "The Federal government enlisted 178,975 blacks during the Civil War; 69,178 died during the conflict. Blacks were again called for service in World War I. Approximately 90 Carroll County men served in all-black U.S. Army units."
Another historian, Duane Doxzen, reported in his research for the Historical Society in the 1990s, "Although blacks had served in military units before the Civil War, it was this conflict that saw the enlistment of blacks in large numbers. A significant number of Carroll County free blacks and manumitted slaves enlisted in the United States Colored Troops."
According to Molleville Farm Post 467 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in 2009, 1.5 million veterans were female, 1.1 million Hispanic and 2.3 million are African-American.
"If you study American history very closely, you will see that African-Americans have been stepping up to the plate to defend our nation since the founding of the Republic," said Brig. Gen. Linda Singh, 49, the recently appointed commander of the Maryland Army National Guard.
Singh is the first African-American, and the first woman, to be named commander.
"I did not rise to my current assignment by myself," she said. "I stood on the shoulders of giants."
A month ago, Singh and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings were the keynote speakers during the 11th annual Carroll County NAACP Branch 7014's Freedom Fund Banquet in Westminster.
"The American Armed Forces were still largely segregated when World War II began in 1941. This did not stop African-Americans from volunteering to serve their country," she said during her speech.
"While President Truman desegregated the Armed Forces in 1948, the civilian sector, especially in the South, stubbornly grasped to segregation," she said. "This did not stop African-Americans from pursuing successful careers in the Armed Forces
"Despite its historical flaws, the American Armed Forces has been a stellar example for personal achievement based on merit," she said. "This is because advancement, for the most part, is based upon what you do, not who you know."
Throughout history, ordinary people have served in our military and accomplished extraordinary things. For this, we are eternally indebted.
Westminster's Veterans Day ceremony is Nov. 11, 4 p.m., at the Westminster Recreation and Parks Family Center, 11 Longwell Ave. The event is hosted by Carroll Post 31 of the American Legion.