VA’s National Cemetery Administration dedicates new headstones to honor WWI Black soldiers, correcting 1917 injustice

Published: 22 February 2024

via the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website

Headstone prep

National Cemetery Administration staff prepare headstones for the ceremony February 22 at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery honoring for 17 World War I Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

WASHINGTON — On November 22, 2024, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA) hosted a memorial ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery righting a wrong of the past by dedicating new headstones for 17 World War I Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

These soldiers were among those executed following the courts martial of 110 Black soldiers charged with murder and mutiny in the 1917 Houston Riots. Consistent with standard procedure of that time for soldiers who were sentenced to death in a court martial, their graves were marked with headstones that listed only their names and year of death – as opposed to full honors. The Army reviewed the cases of these Black soldiers again in 2023 and marked their trials unfair, saying that “these Soldiers were wrongly treated because of their race and were not given fair trials.” The Secretary of the Army set aside all convictions and directed the soldiers’ records reflect honorable discharges.

Now, VA has provided these soldiers with new headstones that fully honor their service – including names, state, rank, unit, and date of death – and an updated interpretive sign sharing their story, educating the public, and providing closure for the next of kin.

“Today, we right the wrongs of the past and honor the service of these soldiers – who served our country with honor,” said VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matthew Quinn. “We are proud to dedicate new engraved headstones that include these Army soldiers’ ranks, regimental unit, and home states, demonstrating our full commitment to helping correct the injustice of that era.”

Read the entire article on the VA web site.
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