Harlem Hellfighters strike the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, at last!

Dr. Adam Tabriz

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Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

After a century of the wait to be fully recognized for their bravery, on August 10, 2021, the World Ware I (WWI) African-American infantry unit, The “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, finally received the recognition they deserve.

The Harlem Hellfighters were combatants of WWI but disdained their courage, detriment, and dedication to their country. They returned home only to battle racism and segregation from the people they protected.

It was only recently, in May 2021, when the congressional Bill H.R. 3642 (I.H.) — Harlem Hellfighters Congressional Gold Medal Act sponsored by Congressman Thomas R. Suozzi-D was introduced.

Upon admission of the United States into World War I in April 1917, the united states military was still racially segregated. In 1916 the State of New York approved the conscription of the 15th New York National Guard Battalion. The 15th national guard, far along after deployment to Saint Nazaire, France, on January 1, 1918, was redesignated the 369th Infantry Regiment. The infantry was called to federal service on July 25, 1917, soon after arriving for training at Camp Whitman, New York.

The Harlem Hellfighters completed their basic military practice training at Camp Whitman, New York. They experienced many incidents of racial discrimination during the time, forcing the government to remove the 15th from Camp Wadsworth. Not surprisingly enough, instead of getting additional training, the battalion was deployed to France for full combat.

In WWI, white soldiers within the American Expeditionary Forces refused to perform combat duty alongside the Black soldiers. Hence the members of the 369th Haerlem Hellfighters were initially assigned manual labor tasks. Later on, upon continued pressure by the 369th regimental commander, the battalion was amended to the French Fourth Army, leading them to encounter the German army for the first time in 1918. The 369th never lost a foot of territory nor was given a prisoner but suffered significant casualties.

The enacted bill authorizes the strike of the gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions determined by the Secretary. Following the gold medal award in honor of the Harlem Hellfighters, the gold medal is donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Nonetheless, the Secretary is authorized to strike and sell reproductions of the “medal of honor” in bronze adequate to cover the costs of the bronze medals. Proceedings received from the sale of duplicate medals under subsection will be placed in the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund to be used within their judicial discretion.

The United States has traveled generations riddled with racism and discrimination. Even though it has not been the only country fronting social injustice but has experienced some of the most toxic episodes during the past century, despite all that, one thing seems to be clear today: the United States will always be home for those who wish to live in this country, and the same people must be willing to contribute to its health, wealth, safety, and harmony. And while at it, they must honor each other and respect each other’s contribution to their shared homeland.

#Congress #WWI #Harlemhellfighters

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Adam Tabriz is a Physician, Writer, Entrepreneur, and public health policy, expert. He is an advocate for Personal liberty. The combination of his experience and expertise underlines his passion for advocating true “Personalized Healthcare” and “Healthcare without Borders.” His favorite slogan is: “Peace of mind would come to all people through the universal respect for the basic human rights of everyone”

San Francisco, CA
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