We arrived early enough to relax and get ready for a fun and educational morning with the third grade classes from Piper Elementary School. At the entrance to the Buffalo Soldier Monument, Historian Thomas Gregory waited patiently for the little troopers to arrive.
It is a very pleasant duty call to address the excited young minds housed in even more energetic bodies as school nears it end for the year. You remember, a field trip meant it’s almost time for summer vacation. Funny thing was that every class (all third graders) when asked how long before school is out we got answers from 14 days to seven! Go figure.
Well, it still was the best way to spend a cool spring morning at the National Buffalo Soldier Monument, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The little ladies and gentlemen were attentive and inquisitive, to our delight as much as theirs.
We walked them around the monument and the Circle of First explaining the history of the site and the heroes represented there. They seemed to grasp the fact that the Buffalo Soldiers were African-American without focusing on the segregation that keep the units divided from the rest of the U.S. Army of the day. Hoping they see a better world and understand one day the contributions of all people in making our nation great. That is one of our goals in helping with these events, aside from making the experience come alive by our presence.
Sergeant Major John “JR” Bruce, President of the Alexander/Madison Chapter of Kansas City Area, was on hand to welcome the kids and escort some of them around the monument and Circle of First. This wasn’t made any easier by his visit to the emergency room with a bad cut to his left hand. Notice the black sling around his neck, that’s no neckerchief. He had fun anyway telling the kids he was wounded.
JR estimated we escorted seventy-five or more little troopers in three separate groups. They were full of third grade questions like, does the cannon fire or how many wars was the cannon in? And most of all they seemed to like the story of Cathay Williams more than any other. Twice, little girls related that story to the movie Mulan. Intuitive and sensitive.
Most of all it appeared to me that the entire class looked up to and wanted to touch the magnificent bust of General Colin Powell as his commanding position in the center of the Circle of First prompted additional attention.
The best part of the day was the smiles, thanks and even occasional hug from a young trooper and an expression of joy at having had the Buffalo Soldier story relayed to them by a Buffalo Soldier.
We look forward to a different but just as enthusiastic reception from the members of the Buffalo Soldier 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association at the 151st Annual National Reunion here at the Buffalo Soldier Monument and Circle of First. A rededication ceremony is in the planning stage for July 28, 2017. Look for more details and make sure you are present and accounted for. You don’t want to miss it!