How these volunteers keep story of Buffalo Soldiers alive in Detroit
DETROIT (WJBK) - The Buffalo Soldiers' life was one of hard work and dedication. With the odds stacked against them, they fought to defend a country that did not see them as equals.
The Buffalo Soldiers were the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Army in the post Civil War era.
"They were given all the leftover stuff from the war, all inferior, everything - weapons, horses. But they excelled at everything they had gotten and everything they were assigned to do," says First Sergeant James Mills. He takes pride in putting on his uniform to speak to visitors about the history of the Buffalo Soldiers. It's a lesson he didn't learn in school.
"You have to know where you've been, you know, to figure out where you're going," he says. "In our history books, there's very little that tells us where we've been."
Mills is part of a group of hardworking volunteers that helps keep The Buffalo Soldiers' legacy alive, while bringing history, horses and healing to the city.
"They were the forgotten soldiers," says Lisa Goldsmith. She's the secretary treasurer with the Buffalo Solders Heritage Association.
But today, The Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Association is remembering.
"Us being here in the city, bringing the community together, people learning the history - that's what we can give back to our community," says Goldsmith.
These volunteers aren't just sharing history with the community, they're sharing horses too. The stables in Rouge Park is a place of serenity where everyone is welcome.
"People see horses on TV; they've seen them in the parade; they don't get a chance to get up close and personal. Here, we invite people to come in and give them carrots, apples and just bond with the animals," Goldsmith says.
The invitation is open, especially for kids.
"You get your strength from the children who have never been around the horses," says volunteer Edith Abramczyk.
"I have them ride by themselves. Of course, I'd be close by but I'd let them ride by themselves just to give them that encouragement that you can do things that you're afraid of but you have to overcome that fear," Mills says.
But it's not easy or cheap keeping up the stables. The volunteers there pour their heart and soul into everything they do.
"It's very humbling when they come out to help us, so we are going to try and put a roof on the building, number one, and then get our furnace fixed, number two," Goldsmith says.
Together, they say they'll overcome these hurdles with bravery, a lesson learned from the soldiers who came before them.
"The way that they fought, they didn't give up," Mills says. "And the Indians respected bravery, and somewhere along the line they were dubbed the Buffalo Soldiers."
You can visit the horses and check out the Buffalo Solders Heritage Center at 21800 Joy Road in Detroit's Rouge Park. For more information, you can visit www.buffalosoldiersdetroit.org.