As the unofficial kick-off of summer, Memorial Day is the time when most people start thinking about camping, picnics, longer days, and hot, lazy evenings.

But it is important to remember the reasons we have the freedom to enjoy such things.

Memorial Day, not to be confused with Veteran’s Day honoring those who served in the armed forces and are still alive today, is the day to remember all those brave men and women who laid down their own lives for our country so we could all have the freedoms we currently enjoy.

While all lives lost during U.S. conflicts and wars are important, Making A Difference Foundation would like to remember the many, many soldiers this Memorial Day who gave the ultimate sacrifice yet rarely get the recognition they deserve throughout our history.

Black soldiers and soldiers of color.

They fought – and died for – the everyday freedoms that we enjoy as a free and democratic society, yet many within this demographic didn’t, and still don’t, have the equity that was fought for.

While African Americans couldn’t officially serve in the U.S. military until 1863 during the Civil War, they did serve in every war or conflict from the Revolutionary War to the most recent Iraq War.

And while casualty data prior to World War I is incomplete, the tracking by race is even more sparce. But here are some key facts to remember this Memorial Day provided by The American Legion, with statistics from the 2016 American Community Survey, Statista, the Congressional Research Service, the National WWII Museum and the U.S. Army since that time:

  • According to Military history of African Americans in the American civil War, “186,097 (7,122 officers, 178,975 enlisted)[25] African-American men, comprising 163 units, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more African Americans served in the Union Navy. Both free African Americans and runaway slaves joined the fight.”
  • There were more than 350,000 Black soldiers who served in American Expeditionary Forces units on the Western Front in World War I.
  • 901,896 African Americans served during World War II with more than 20,000 Black Marine Corps recruits who received training at Montford Point camp in North Carolina during World War II.
  • There were 3,075 deaths of active-duty Black servicemembers in the Korean War.
  • In the Vietnam war, there were 7,243 deaths of active-duty Black service members.
  • Only 21 African Americans received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War.
  • Of the 500,000 U.S. military personnel deployed to the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War, 24% were African-American.
  • In 2016, 30.2% active-duty were enlisted African American women and 17.1% were African American men.
  • Nationwide, there are 2.15 million Black military veterans.
  • Being Black in the military often meant these soldiers received the worst food and equipment, and labored without the respect and recognition they were due and earned.

Black men and women alike have helped shape the country in so many ways and they certainly deserve honor, recognition, and remembrance for all they gave and continue to give, even when for so long they did not get the equal freedoms they died for.

To learn more about the interesting history of these soldiers and about Blacks in the military, check out these links:

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget!