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Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital

 

Embracing Diversity with Black History Month

Frederick C. Branch being pinned with his second lieutenant bars by his wife, Camilla

Frederick C. Branch was the first African American United States Marine Corps officer. In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Marine Corps to African Americans through an executive order (8802) that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

VA proudly joins the Nation in celebrating Black History Month in February.  Let’s review a few African American military firsts.

  • Air Force: Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002) was a United States Air Force general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen.  He was the first African American general in the United States Air Force.
  • Army: Cathay Williams (1844 - 1892) was an American soldier and the first African American female to enlist in the United States Army.  She served posing as a man using the name William Cathay.
  • Marines: Frederick C. Branch was the first African American United States Marine Corps officer.  In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Marine Corps to African Americans through an executive order (8802) that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.
  • Navy: Samuel Gravely was the first African American commissioned as a United States Navy officer from the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Truman VA demonstrates its commitment to diversity through outreach to potential employees, patients and caregivers.  Two VA programs established to support diversity include the African American Special Emphasis Program and the Minority Veterans Program.

African American Special Emphasis Program

The African American Special Emphasis Program has been established to increase the awareness and representation of African Americans throughout VA.  Through this Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program, local African American Special Emphasis Program Coordinators perform outreach and provide assistance to current employees seeking promotion and potential employees applying for jobs.  Contact our local African American Special Emphasis Program Coordinator, Jason Schmitt, at (573) 814-6413 for more details on this program.

Minority Veterans Program

The Minority Veterans Program (MVP) was implemented in 1995 to assist facility directors and the Center for Minority Veterans in the assessment and identification of minority Veterans' (Pacific Islander, Asian American, African American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American, including American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian) needs.  The overall objective of this outreach program is to increase awareness of minority Veteran related issues and develop strategies to increase participation in VA benefit programs.  Every VA medical center, regional office and national cemetery has a Minority Veteran Program Coordinator.  Contact our local Minority Veterans Program Coordinator, Paula Williams, MSN, RN, at (573) 814-6210 for more details on this program.

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