Take a quick tour of the Fort Des Moines Museum. During World War I, Fort Des Moines became the first training center for Black officers in the U.S. Army. Later, it was a training center for women.

Des Moines museums offer opportunity to explore Black soldiers' sacrifice: 'Valor never expires' 

By Carol Hunter
via the Des Moines Register newspaper (IA) web site

Under a hail of gunfire on a French battlefield in World War I, 2nd Lt. Rufus Jackson of Des Moines crawls forward among the muck and the bodies of his fallen comrades to pinpoint the location of German machine gun nests that are slaughtering his men.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Rufus JacksonFor his selfless heroism that day, Jackson was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. But a team of military historians believes his valor in action fits the criteria for a Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed by the American military. He was denied that medal, the team believes, because of the racial discrimination of the times.

Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder tells the story of Jackson’s bravery and of the work of the Parkville, Missouri-based George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War. Its team of researchers is conducting a congressionally sponsored valor medals review to determine whether World War I soldiers were unjustly denied appropriate medals because of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination.

Courtney also expertly weaves in the story of another Iowan and Army veteran, Josh Weston, 32, who’s part of the medals review team. Weston, who served as a military police officer, has struggled with depression but has found renewed purpose in endeavoring to ensure that soldiers who served a century ago receive the honors they deserve for their heroism.

 Throughout our state’s history, tens of thousands of Black Iowans and people from other minority groups have served in the military with distinction, only to at best blend quietly back into civilian life without recognition of their sacrifice, or worse, endure discrimination or outright attacks in the country they defended.

If you’re interested in learning more about these soldiers’ lives and contributions, Des Moines offers two great places to start: the State Historical Museum, and the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.

Read the entire article on the Des Moines Register web site.

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