BALTIMORE — The stories of military history and the contributions of African American men and women has often left a hole to be filled. The MD Museum of Military history is making sure that history will be shared for years to come. The museum includes a full room dedicated to sharing the stories of African American National Guard soldiers.
During the Korean war, one of the first National Guard troops to be federalized and called to active duty was the all Black 231st Transportation Truck Battalion.
Louis Diggs served with that troop and recalled his time before and after the National Guard was integrated.
"I thought the army was desegregated to be honest with you. That wasn’t so. it was highly segregated. We didn’t get integrated until 1952 but when they separated us from our battalion...we did exactly what we were supposed to do but we where not treated right as blacks. They wouldn’t give us decent food, couldn’t stay in their compound where there was security, winter time you slept under the truck and summer time you slept on top," said Diggs
In 1952 things in the military began to change. Maryland was the first Southern State to integrate it's National Guard.
Sergeant Major Perlisa Wilson now serves as the Senior Enlisted Leader of the National Guard. She is the first woman and African American to serve in this role and has directly benefited from the knowledge of those who came before her.
"Many of those soldiers especially with the 231st. When I joined, many of them where here and they were the older soldiers and I actually got to serve with some of them and to know them and have them support me and mentor me," said Wilson.
As the first, she doesn't credit herself with being special but says her promotions have been based on timing meeting preparation.
"I didn't set out to be the first...I think with proper leadership, mentorship, timing and preparation and education, opportunities became open and leadership saw fit to select me to serve for those positions. I don't take it for granted and think its important for other African Americans and females to see that they do have an opportunity to make it," said Wilson.
Wilson is hopeful that as she provides mentorship as it was provided to her, there will be many more gaps filled in the Military's history.