African-American soldiers share war stories of racism

February 02, 2018 07:04 PM

There's a theme for "Black History Month" this year -- African-Americans in times of war.

Area veterans shared their war stories in Albany County on Friday to demonstrate the additional challenges they endured just trying to serve their country.

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Some of the stories were shocking.

"I remember the first time I heard the word 'nigger' in wartime," recalled Vietnam Vet Wayne Jackson.

He was fighting for his country and felt he couldn't rely on his fellow soldiers.

"My first thing is – 'Are you kidding me? I mean, we're here fighting a war. We're supposed to be fighting together and here you are calling me names and I have to trust you to be on my side and have my back,'" he recalled.

Things turned around somewhat by the time he was wounded and some of those white soldiers vowed not to leave his side until he was safe.

For Glen Hicks, racism reared its head long before deployment in basic training.

"There was a couple guys from Kentucky. They would slip notes up under my door – I'm going to hang you. I'm going to do this. I'm going to do that," remembered Hicks.

He brushed it off - until one day when he had called home and someone grabbed the phone and hung it up while he talked with his mom.

"I let all this muster stir up and I'm like, 'What am I going to do? They're sliding notes and now they're getting kind of physical," wondered Hicks.

They fought and Hicks won, but was nearly kicked out of the military for assault. He also recalls a superior in Iraq who kept referring to black soldiers as "you people."

WEB EXTRA: Iraq War veteran talks about racism in the military -- not seen on TV

"You know we're all soldiers. We're here. We're fighting. We have our lives on the line and all you care about is the color of someone's skin," he questioned.

Hicks tried to keep his cool, but there was an altercation. It's hard to avoid when you're putting your life on the line and some act as though your life is worthless because of your skin color.

However, each of these courageous men persevered, became decorated soldiers and taught valuable lessons along the way.

"Sometimes, people learn that it's just the color of your skin. It's just skin. We bleed the same way. We feel the same way. We are here fighting the same war," pointed out Hicks.

After serving in both the Army and National Guard, Hicks is now a full-time recruiter in Troy.


WNYT Staff

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