7 original Buffalo Soldiers honored in LA

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About 50 people gathered in a small multipurpose room at Rodgers Park Friday to honor seven original Buffalo Soldiers.

The event, called "Preserving our Legacy," was sponsored by the 9th and 10th Buffalo Soldiers Los Angeles Association.

"We're here to honor and recognize some of the original Buffalo Soldiers who are still with us," said retired Major General Peter Gravett. "They served in Buffalo's old units and they are quite elderly."

"They're probably in their late 80s, early 90s... so this is an opportunity for us to say one more time, thank you for your service," Gravett said.

The Buffalo Soldiers' first incarnation was the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed to assist the Union Army in fighting the Civil War. As the decades wore on, "Buffalo Soldiers" came refer to any African-American unit up until World War II.

"The regiments did not go overseas," explained Colonel Franklin Henderson, referring to the Buffalo Soldiers' missions in World Wars I and II. "Instead they were given the mission of protecting the border [between Mexico and the US] because at that time we felt that the Germans would send saboteurs into the United States by way of Mexico."

Erik Greenberg, director of Education for the Autry National Center, summed up an important aspect of the soldiers' service.

"In an era when upward mobility for African Americans was incredibly difficult, the military and the Buffalo Soldiers offered an entrance into the middle class in a way that was virtually impossible in parts of America at the time."

"Growing up I knew that they didn't teach us too much about them in history," said Army Specialist Debora Martinez, who came to watch the event. Martinez has just returned from Camp Taji in Iraq.

"I actually learned about them four years ago coming into the army [...] Its gratifying and its rewarding just to meet them today. This is a part of history and I'm excited about that, just being here with them."

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Autry Center had inducted these soldiers into their Hall of Fame. While the center did recently expand their exhibit on the Buffalo Soldiers, there is no hall of fame at the Autry.

With contributions by Paige Osburn

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