Letter to the Editor

Salute to black veterans

Black History Month is a time to honor and recognize the triumphs and contributions of African-Americans. The significant role African-American soldiers played in shaping Missouri's history and future cannot be overstated.

From the Civil War Battle of Island Mound in 1862 in Bates County, which is the first known engagement of an African-American regiment in the Civil War, to the separate Black Officers Club during World War II at Fort Leonard Wood, African-American soldiers and veterans have long understood the high cost of liberty and freedom as they often fought a war of two fronts: the enemy they were fighting and racism at home.

Many African-Americans who served in the military never bothered to access or find out about their veterans benefits. Recognizing a need, the Missouri Veterans Commission in 2006 reached out to minority veterans in Missouri.

Based in Kansas City, our minority veterans coordinator works to inform minority veterans about veterans benefits, refers minority veterans to veterans service officers to apply for benefits and advocates on behalf of minority veteran issues. To contact the minority veterans coordinator, call 816-889-3081, e-mail Rebecca.bradley@mvc.dps.mo.gov or go to <I>www.mvc.dps.mo.gov for more information.

As Black History Month draws to a close, I am reminded of a statement we at the Missouri Veterans Commission live by: "Veterans are honored every day, not just Veterans Day." Just as we honor veterans throughout the year, the recognition and honor given to African-Americans should not end on Feb. 28.

LARRY D. KAY, Executive Director, Missouri Veterans Commission, Jefferson City, Mo.