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Executive Order 9981

First row: Karyn Brunson (wife of Maj. LaHavie Brunson), Maryam Brunson, Maj. Tavi Brunson, LTC Kirsten Brunson


The Brunson family: First row: Karyn Brunson (wife of Maj. LaHavie Brunson), Maryam Brunson, Maj. Tavi Brunson, LTC Kirsten Brunson
Second row: Maj. LaHavie Brunson, Rachel Brunson, Rebecca Brunson (children of LTC Kirsten and LTC Xavier Brunson), LTC Xavier Brunson
Third row: Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Albert Brunson, Delphine Brunson (Sgt. Maj Al Brunson's wife).  The Brunsons discussed their proud tradition of serving in the U.S. Army and their combined 100 years of service with bloggers. "The opportunity to serve and follow in our father's footsteps was one of our dreams growing up," Army Maj. LaHavie Brunson said. "I think it was all the better for Tavi and I because we had the opportunity to serve our first few years in the Army here at Fort Bragg and live near our parents. And then, just most recently, all of us had the opportunity to be stationed at Fort Bragg. So, it makes it all the better, and we are very blessed for the opportunity on top of the great deal that it is to serve in the United States Army," she added. Look for more on the Brunsons next week.
 


60 years ago President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, officially ending segregation in the Armed Forces of the United States.  This was well before civil society was pushed into facing the realities of Jim Crow with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Act coming as it did only through the efforts of Civil Rights Movement, symbolized by Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and bolstered by the sacrifice of Medgar Evers and many others to give the political class the needed courage to act - an effort bolstered by the experience gained from and precedents set by President Truman's historic order.

Today marks the anniversary of the signing of  Executive Order 9981.  In remarks at the Capitol this week, Secretary Gates observed, "No aspect of black Americans' quest for justice and equality under the law has been nobler than what has been called, "the fight for the right to fight," 

He continued, "Our commemoration today of the racial integration of the armed forces makes us reflect on how far we have come toward living up to our founding ideals and yet how much remains to be done," 

Representatives of all of America's sons and daughters have fought, in one fashion or another in all of our wars - and often with a bleak understanding of the irony in fighting to gain or  preserve a freedom and human dignity for... others, that they themselves would not be accorded.   Like Crispus Attucks, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the Buffalo Soldiers, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Puerto Rican soldiers of the "Borinqueneers," soldiers of color have shown that all blood flows red, and courage knows little racial or cultural distinction. 

The heart of a man is the heart of Man.

Secretary Gates said that Truman's Executive Order 9981, signed July 26, 1948, was an important statement of purpose and a critical step - however, he noted,  Truman's directive "had to overcome stiff institutional resistance, as deeply entrenched attitudes were hard to change."

No sweep of the magical executive pen could produce such profound change overnight.  However much faster a shift to relative meritocracy might be achieved over time in the Armed Services, it took still longer for it to happen, a continuing process, in civil society - and the military - the inertia of human institutions can be very resistant to a shift.  But the relative speed at which it was accomplished within the US military is a clear indicator of why politicians, Presidents especially, like to use the discipline of the forces as a wedge to open doors - whether for persons of color, women, or, no doubt in the not-too-distant future, gays.

It took time.   "[S]egregated units remained the norm and integrated units the exception," Gates said, for several years after the integration order was issued.   And the Army and Marines were wracked in the late 60's and 70's with racial tension just as society was - after all, the Army, especially then, was drawn from the population at large, who brought their attitudes in with them.

It took the start of the Korean War in June 1950, which required rebuilding and manning a hastily demobilized Army, that produced the needed institutional impetus and pressure to truly force the services to fully confront the issue - "With the sudden outbreak of war in Korea, the urgent demands of the battlefield trumped the old habit of Jim Crow," Gates said.

Before the start of the Korean War, he said, 50 percent of African-Americans in the Marine Corps -- about 750 men -- served as stewards. At the end of the Korean War in 1953, Gates said, there were 17,000 African-American Marines, and only 3 percent served as stewards.  I'm guessing that number is even lower now...

"By 1954, the Korean War was over, the last of the segregated units were dissolved, and the momentum for equality and civil rights was carrying over into American society as a whole," Gates said. Not that it would come swiftly, or without turmoil. 

Today's integrated U.S. military continues to "put merit and integrity above all," Gates said, he believes there's still a long way to go.

"My hope and expectation is that, in the years ahead, more African-Americans will staff the armed forces at the highest levels," Gates said. "We must make sure the American military continues to be a great engine of progress and equality -- all the better to defend our people and our values against adversaries around the globe."

And part and parcel of that growth will come from military families like the Brunsons.  As a third generation soldier on my Father's side, and tracing a military heritage back to Roger's Rangers on my Mother's side - I'm proud of the Brunsons and their tradition of service to the Army family.  But then, I'm proud of everybody who dons the uniform and serves honorably.

3 Comments

A great Warrior family that we can all be proud of, and I'd be proud to serve with any of them.

Ii thank them ALL for their service defending our country.

The only color I see is green.  We've got a war to fight, and we don't have time for anything that distracts from finding the enemy and destroying them with fire and maneuver, if turning their hearts and minds fails.
 

 

 

 
Amen.  Green is my favorite color followed closely by blue ;)