By Jennifer L. Warren
HIGHLAND FALLS – Sergeant Sanders Haygood Matthews would have been proud…very proud.
The 95 year old Buffalo Soldier from the 10th Cavalry, who served his country for 23 years, Matthews, who passed away last week, laid the groundwork for Sunday’s Annual Event. The 55th Buffalo Soldiers Memorial Ceremony, commemorating the 9th and 10th Cavalries, took on a extra special meaning, as it saluted the life and legacy of the beloved Matthews, one of the last original Buffalo Soldiers from West Point.
Formed in 1866, the Buffalo Soldiers were comprised of African-American soldiers who served in the Indian War, Spanish-American War, both World Wars and Korean Conflict. The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were specifically assigned to West Point in the early 1900s, supporting riding instruction and mounted drill for the Corp of Cadets until 1946. Their devotion and service is celebrated each year at Buffalo Soldier Field.
This year’s guest speaker, Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Academy Superintendent, opened the Ceremony, noting the impact of these Soldiers. “The Buffalo Soldiers played a very important part in our country’s history,” said Caslen, who referred to General Colin Powell’s assessment of these soldiers as well as the newly constructed monument (featuring a Buffalo Soldier atop a horse), slated to be erected in 2017 in their honor.”It is my sincere hope that this memorial will inspire future generations to serve.”
Among the crowd, was Matthew’s nephew, Coleman Matthews, a Vietnam War veteran. Matthews’ caretaker, Coleman was deeply touched by Sunday’s service. “This day means a lot, honoring my uncle,” said an emotional Matthews. “I remember his great pride and love for being a Buffalo Soldier as well as for being in the service; a statue honoring this group would mean him seeing himself up on that horse and being so happy.”
In addition to Matthews’ family, several members from varying Associations of Buffalo Soldiers Troopers Motorcycle Club were present, traveling many miles for the ceremony.
“Today recognizes and honors our history, specifically for African-Americans; these soldiers represented a change in the minds of African-Americans at the end of the Civil War,” indicated Melvin Smith, President of the West Point chapter of the National Association of Buffalo Soldier Troopers Motorcycle Club. “There was a real, visible difference after 1866 in both the confidence and pride of African-American soldiers; a seed was planted.” Smith continued, “It was the first rung in the ladder, and I feel connected to it, wanting to carry on its purpose and letting people know of the sacrifices they made to help make life easier for us today.”
It’s that “blossoming” ideology that would have made all the dedication and perseverance worth it for Sergeant Sanders Haygood Matthews, along with thousands of other African-American military members who fought so valiantly to defend the country they loved.
“I remember right before he passed away, I said to him (Sanders) the general of all generals is waiting for you,” said Matthews’ nephew, Coleman. “Go get your reward for all your hard work.”