WEST POINT – Hundreds turned out last Friday as the U.S. Military Academy dedicated a new monument to honor, promote and preserve the history and contributions of Buffalo Soldiers who served in the Army at West Point.
The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem, led by Master Sergeant Marykay Messenger. Chaplain (COL) Keith Goode provided a rousing Invocation, followed by LTG Darryl Williams, who offered brief remarks before introducing General Vincent K. Brooks, the keynote speaker.
“These soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethics,” said U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Daryl A. Williams.
“This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generation of cadets.”
Williams also gave special recognition to the sculptor Eddie Dixon and Sanders and Cora Matthews. Williams said, “Sanders Matthews was one of the last Buffalo Soldiers assigned here and both he and his wife Cora were an integral part of the Academy and West Point as well as the extended Hudson Valley community. Throughout their lives both were dedicated to sharing the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. Educating future generations on their contributions to our great history here at West Point.”
Retired Gen. Vincent “Vince” K. Brooks, Class of 1980, said he was filled with excitement and emotions. He recounted some of the many black groups that proudly served the country such as the “Triple Nickel,” Tuskegee Airmen, and many others throughout history. “Among them, none shine brighter nor more enduringly in their impact than the collection of warriors known as the Buffalo Soldiers,” Brooks said, as he then recounted the history of the Buffalo Soldiers.
From 1907 to 1947, Buffalo Soldiers were assigned to the 9th and 10th Calvary Regiments at West Point to provide instruction in mounted drill and tactics to the Corps of Cadets that included notable graduates George S. Patton, Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, and others who attended the academy during those four decades.
Many in the audience could be seen shaking their head in agreement, as though it was something they had been taught, while others seemed to look upon Brooks as a gifted college professor who made history come alive. Recounting the many trials and tribulations the Buffalo Soldiers endured, he was impassioned to see the fruition of the much deserved tribute to those who proudly served their country and whose history deserves to be recognized.
Gifted to the academy by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, the 10 foot tall bronze trooper mounted on horseback characterizes the level of horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers. Nationally renowned sculptor Eddie Dixon was commissioned for the piece that bears likeness to retired Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews, Sr., a Buffalo Soldier stationed at West Point. Matthews, who founded the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, worked tirelessly to pay tribute to their memory.
In 1973, the academy memorialized the achievements of Buffalo Soldiers in U.S. Army history by renaming the plain on which they trained as Buffalo Soldier Field and placed a memorial rock in the far northeast corner. The Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point advocated for the enhancement of the memorial into a larger, more substantial monument to commemorate the historical legacy of Buffalo Soldiers at West Point. The monument’s granite base will incorporate the historical marker from the existing memorial rock.
Surrounded by six benches bas-relief images will embellish the substructure to depict the Soldiers’ performance at academy ceremonies for esteemed guests and visitors.