On Saturday to coincide with Black History Month an event took place at James Bridges Theater, on the campus of UCLA. The screening of the documentary Veterans of Color was viewed by veterans, their family members, University Staff, aspiring film makers, professionals, and community members. The hour-long film was about the stories of a group of African American men and women who dealt with “Courage, Adversity, and Triumph” during World War II – Vietnam.
The film included short stories told by these veterans as their realities of war abroad, and of the transformation of an era in American History, where blacks were starting to be accepted (although oftentimes reluctantly) into the military and at home as equals. One veteran told a story of how he served in a segregated military unit during WWII. One veteran said that he was ordered out of his vehicle at night to walk back miles (through enemy lines) to his unit.
One veteran told the story of how he had fought overseas for the freedom of Americans, only to come back home from Vietnam to be verbally put down by many for participating in the war, and still having to deal with racism and inequality at home.
A Tuskegee Airman said that after he and his fellow black pilots completed combat missions along with white counterparts, they (black pilots) were not mentioned in notifications that went out to the public telling of the military’s heroic accomplishments.
Another veteran spoke of how he earned the position of a drill sergeant, by being the best tested in the field - but was told by his commanding officer that no black man was going to drill his troops. But one of the highlights of the film was when a veteran said that he was invited to the White House, by then President George W. Bush who stood and saluted him and other black vets who were being honored for their service, and the President said “this salute is for all the other times you didn’t get a salute.”
The evening ended with a panel discussion and Q & A. This veteran would like to thank my friends Ilene and Ken who invited me, UCLA, Urban League, Producer/Director Mark Parry, Dr. Bernie Watson, Manasota Branch, of the Assn. For The Study of African American Life and History, and especially for all the veterans in the film. www.veteransofcolor.org