February marks the time where, as a nation, we celebrate the contributions and service of African-Americans. It is important to honor African-Americans who have served, those who continue to serve and African-Americans who will one day serve. When their contributions are recognized and their value realized, our nation’s history becomes richer.

Most people learned about the service of some prominent African-American soldiers and their distinguished units. On March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks became the first African-American casualty during the American Revolution. He died with other colonists, standing up to British Forces. The soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, affectionately named “Buffalo Soldiers,” served on the western frontier after the Civil War. These Buffalo Soldiers were responsible for maintaining lands acquired during the westward expansion. Other notable units include the 369th Infantry, known as the “Harlem Hell Fighters.” During World War I, these soldiers were one of the first U.S. regiments to arrive in France. Their extraordinary acts of valor during the conflict earned them fame in Europe and America.

Perhaps the most contentious, but progressive period of service came during the Vietnam conflict. With the institution of the draft, Vietnam became the first truly integrated conflict in U.S. military history, despite desegregation in the 1940s. While there were still issues with segregation within the ranks, leaders like Staff Sergeant Glide Brown Jr., emerged. Brown was an African-American soldier, but the men he commanded were not. By all accounts, it didn’t seem to matter.

By the time the conflict in the Persian Gulf had kicked off, African-Americans made up 22 percent of all servicemembers.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Army has adopted a more proactive approach to recruit and train a diverse force. According to the U.S. Office of Army Demographics, by fiscal year 2003 there were approximately 254,000 African-American serving in the Army as active-duty or reserve soldiers.

As of fiscal year 2014, black Soldiers made up 21 percent of the active-duty Army. By comparison, there is a continuing trend of more African-Americans serving on active duty, than represented in the general U.S. population. Every day, African-American soldiers honorably serve the United States – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, South Korea and many other nations – among many overseas operations. Today’s African-American soldiers follow in the footsteps of those who have served with distinction and honor for hundreds of years.

The service and contribution of African-American soldiers has, and will continue to shape the history of this nation, and truly this world. The Army has committed to ensuring diversity throughout the ranks because a diverse Army, is an effective Army.

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