Honoring our veterans
Omega Psi Phi recognizes recent Bronze Star medal recipient
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:50 p.m.
Howard Douglas received the Bronze Star medal at the Alachua County Veterans Services annual Veterans Day Celebration Sunday at Kanapaha Park, 68 years after leaving the U.S. Army and serving during World War II.
And on Monday morning at the King Center, he was the guest of honor at the 6th annual Col. Charles D. Young Veterans Day Celebration organized by the Beta Pi chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
Nearly 100 people, mostly veterans, attended the breakfast that annually honors veterans, especially African-American vets, in the Gainesville/Alachua County community. The breakfast is named in honor of Young, who served in the military from 1889 until his death in 1922. He was the first black to receive the rank of colonel in the U.S. military and the second honorary member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
The fraternity honors a local veteran with the Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Award, given to a distinguished veteran from the community. This year, Douglas was the recipient of the award. Davis, who died in 2002, was the first black general in the U.S. Air Force and served as commander of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
Douglas, 96, was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the historic 366th Infantry Regiment, one of the nation's first and final units composed entirely of black enlisted soldiers and officers. The duties of the regiment during World War II included performing airfield security operations for the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military airmen.
The highlight of the ceremony was a speech by Douglas, who like many other black U.S. military veterans, had to go through a lot of bureaucratic redtape to receive a medal of honor for his military service.
Rosemary Larry, an attorney who lives in Arlington, Va., did extensive research to help Douglas get his Bronze Star. "As you can tell, he has a great memory, and I was able to get help doing the research to corroborate his claims," Larry said.
Douglas, who lives in the Arredondo community in southwest Gainesville, began his speech by saying he loves all people. He said he never thought he would have to go overseas to fight the Germans when he joined the Army. He described Adolph Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party during World War II, as a short man. However, he said Hitler only allowed men over six feet tall to join the Nazi Army.
"He wanted to make sure he had plenty of powerful men," Douglas said.
He said the military was segregated when he joined it in 1941 and black soldiers knew they had to be the best "because segregation was wide open back then."
He also said he was glad to be able to carry out his duties, which he said were to "fight the Germans and keep them from coming to America. I love America. I was born in America, and when I die, I hope they bury me in America."
The ceremony also featured a presentation by Ret. U.S. Army Maj. Charlie Jackson on how the U.S. military won the 1991 Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm war in 100 hours. Jackson also is president of Beta Pi and head of the Alachua County Facilities Management Department.
"This is a powerful nation and we have the most powerful military in the world," said Jackson, adding that the military moved more cargo in 30 days during Desert Storm than it did during the entire Vietnam War.
Jackson also urged the veterans in attendance to make sure they take advantage of all of the benefits and resources available to them.
One veteran stood and shouted "Yes! Yes!" as "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood played during Jackson's presentation.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.