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Army, Black soldier, D-Day, Van Hollen, Waverly Woodson Jr. Distinguished Service Cross,

Source: Inti St Clair / Getty

 

Cpl. D-Day, Jr., a Black army medic who saved nearly 200 lives during D-Day in 1944, is being posthumously honored for his heroic efforts. 

On June 3, Woodson, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 83, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army’s second-highest military honor for soldiers who display extraordinary heroism in combat, according to Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Serving with the First Army, the distinguished unit commanding all ground and airborne forces on D-Day, Woodson was a member of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, an all-Black unit that fought in Normandy during the perilous “Operation Overlord.” Woodson exhibited unwavering courage amid the tumult of combat. For over 30 hours, he rendered lifesaving medical aid to countless soldiers despite sustaining grave injuries himself when his vessel struck a German mine in the treacherous battle. 

But Wooden’s Distinguished Service Cross honor came with opposition, according to Van Hollen. The Democrat and relatives of the Black medic had to fight for his important work to be recognized. They believe the delay was due to his race. 

“It’s an important moment so that we can say to the family that we recognize his heroism but it’s also an important moment for the country to come to grips with its past because it’s very clear that he did not receive this medal earlier because of the color of his skin,” Van Hollen told CNN during an interview with regard to the delay in the Black medic’s Distinguished Service Cross award. 

Despite the evident heroism and sacrifice, Woodson’s remarkable deeds went unrecognized by the highest military honor for the Medal of Honor, a prestigious award within the United States Armed Forces, bestowed upon individuals across its branches—soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians, and coast guardsmen—who have showcased unparalleled courage and valor in the face of adversity.

 

It’s a painful  illustration of the racial bias pervading the post-World War II era.

The absence of a prestigious accolade for deserving Black soldiers underscores a troubling pattern of discrimination within the military hierarchy. It was not until 1997, under President Clinton’s administration, that seven Black service members received retroactive awards of the Medal of Honor. Regrettably, Woodson, though deserving, was overlooked for his heroic D-Day efforts, Van Hollen’s website notes.

Racism and discrimination seep into other areas impacting Black veterans post-service such as their ability to claim benefits like disability compensation.

In 2022, Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Service Clinic filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), alleging discriminatory practices against Black veterans. The suit was brought on behalf of Conley Monk Jr., a former United States Marine Corps member who developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following his deployment in Vietnam. 

Yale Law officials asserted that the VA disproportionately rejected disability claims from Black veterans like Monk Jr. between 2001 and 2020, citing various VA records from the period to substantiate their claims.

Per Yale’s website, the lawsuit seeks damages for the VA’s failure to address ongoing bias against Black veterans since 1945. On March 29, Connecticut judge Stephen R. Underhill denied the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss the suit, allowing the case to move forward. 

How can we help Black veterans?

Black veterans have made significant contributions to the armed forces, often sacrificing their lives and well-being in service to their country. Despite their invaluable service, many Black veterans face challenges upon returning to civilian life. From struggling with mental health issues to experiencing homelessness, Black veterans may need additional support to overcome these obstacles. 

One of the most impactful ways to support Black veterans is to raise awareness about the challenges they face. Educate yourself and others about the unique experiences of Black army veterans, including their contributions to the military and the issues they encounter upon returning home. Share articles, documentaries and personal stories to amplify their voices and shed light on their needs.

You can also volunteer with local veteran organizations. Numerous organizations are dedicated to supporting veterans, and volunteering with these groups can make a meaningful difference. Look for local chapters of organizations like the Black Veterans Project, the National Association for Black Veterans, Inc. (NABVETS) or Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that provide resources and assistance to veterans in need. Offer your time and skills to help organize events, provide mentorship or assist with administrative tasks.

SEE ALSO:

Black History of D-Day: The Untold Story Of The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion

101-Year-Old Former Montford Point Marine Receives Congressional Gold Medal

The post Nearly 30 Years After His Death, Cpl. Waverly Woodson, Jr., A Black Medic And D-Day Hero, Is Finally Honored appeared first on NewsOne.

Nearly 30 Years After His Death, Cpl. Waverly Woodson, Jr., A Black Medic And D-Day Hero, Is Finally Honored  was originally published on newsone.com