Veterans Deserve Better on Memorial Day

Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King reflects on what the country owes veterans, especially in light of the disrespect shown in Washington, D.C., to the recent observance of the Bureau of Colored Troops' 150th anniversary.

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Black veterans commemorate the desegregation of U.S. armed forces in 2008. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In his Washington Post column about Memorial Day, Colbert I. King reflects on what the country owes veterans, especially in light of the disrespect shown in Washington, D.C., to the recent observance of the Bureau of Colored Troops' 150th anniversary.

The observance of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops in the District occurred this week, only a few days before Memorial Day. It seems fitting that the sesquicentennial of the Colored Troops Bureau falls close to the day originally set aside to remember those killed in the Civil War.

More than 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors served in the Union Army and Navy. Nearly 68,000 died.

Those African American service members were honored Wednesday at a wreath-laying ceremony and a program at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum on Vermont Avenue NW.

The event, organized by the museum's founder and director, Frank Smith, was well-attended and inspirational but low-key. There was not even a cameo appearance by Mayor Vincent Gray or a member of the D.C. Council. If any D.C. elected official sent a representative to the commemoration, the gesture went unannounced and unnoticed.

Those "colored troops" deserved better from this city. After all, the 28th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops and soldiers with Company E, 4th U.S. Colored Infantry, were among the units assigned to the defense of Washington during the Civil War.

Paid less than their white Union comrades, those black soldiers and sailors courageously fought in nearly 500 engagements, including, according to military records, 39 major battles.

Read Colbert I. King's entire column at the Washington Post.

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