BALTIMORE — The death of General Colin Powell has had a profound impact on our country.
While serving both Democratic and Republican administrations, he developed lasting relationships that expand beyond the nation's borders and his relationship with the Buffalo Soldiers was invaluable, helping them build the very platform they stand on today.
He earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, the Congressional Gold Medal award, the Presidential Citizens Medal and of course the Purple Heart
One of America's most decorated war heroes left a lasting impact on the 9th and 10th (horse) cavalry associations known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
"The morning that I awoke to hearing the news that General Powell had passed, was somewhat of a form of shock and awe," National President of the Buffalo Soldiers, Michael Theard, tells us what he remembers most about Powell was his humility.
"He did not have to be the smartest person in the room to be successful. He needed to surround himself with the professionals that were not only professionals with their given domains but they were also the type of leaders loyal to the mission."
Early in Powell's career while he stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for training, he observed statues and monuments honoring those who served in uniform and noticed none of them were black.
That's when he took on the duty of enhancing efforts to recognize the Buffalo Soldiers, the first black soldiers allowed to serve active duty in the U.S. Military post civil war.
Powell was the driving force in getting a monument erected on Fort Leavenworth. One of two locations where the Buffalo Soldiers unit was activated. From 1870 to 1890 during the Indian campaigns, 18 black soldiers earned medals of honor inspiring Powell.
At Fort Leavenworth in 1992, he dedicated the buffalo soldier monument, the circle of firsts and the walkway of units which recognize African American firsts in the military.
He did it as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
"General Powell's initial effort to ensure the Buffalo Soldiers gained more public visibility by the actions that were taken at initially Buffalo Soldier park and the circle of firsts at Fort Leavenworth has also branched out with tentacles where our association has installed monuments in Arizona and a few other places around the country."
Making it clear the buffalo soldiers contribution to the country wasn't black history but American history.
"His relationship wasn’t just with the bias of soldiers of color. His relationship was with the military and those that served overall."
In 2017, he too would be celebrated with his own monument as the first living honoree to have his bust commissioned by the army. Powell spent his life shining a light on those working in the shadows. A life Theard says wouldn't be possible without his devoted wife and children.
"I think ‘thank you’ says it all. Thank you for being patient, loving and caring. Thank you for supporting General Powell and his career aspirations and achievements and thank you for taking care of him for us so he could serve in those capacities."