DVIDS – News – Juneteenth, Army Heritage, Pride: Celebrating a Legacy

MILWAUKEE — As of last year, Juneteenth is now recognized as a federal holiday in the United States despite dating back to 1865. On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery, guaranteeing the freedoms of 250,000 black slaves. The military enforced the Emancipation Proclamation, advancing fundamental issues of justice, morality, and humanity.

Black soldiers have defended our nation since the Revolutionary War, even when their freedom and dignity were so long denied. Major General Vance Coleman, former commanding general of the 84th Division (now the 84th Training Command) from 1985 until his retirement in 1989, lived a life of extraordinary service in the United States Army.
Coleman enlisted in the army in 1947, when the army was still separate, and served in all-black units until he was selected to attend officer candidate school in 1951. In the end, he was first placed in a combat arms unit, but was later reassigned to another all-black unit.

It was not until he volunteered to serve in the Korean War that he was then assigned to an integrated unit, the 623rd Field Artillery Battalion in 1952. There he served as an observer advanced, deputy executive officer and commander. After about 10 months, he was injured by shrapnel and evacuated to Japan.

From Japan, he took command of a battery as a captain, then served as a battalion’s assistant operations officer. He was then posted to a unit in Hawaii before being released from active duty.

Coleman used his GI Bill to complete his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Coleman returned to Milwaukee and joined the 84th Division in 1964. He held many key positions during his 21 years in the division, eventually rising to the rank of major general and serving as commanding general until retiring in 1989.

Coleman served for more than 30 years, experiencing many significant changes in the military, including the end of racial segregation in the ranks, the recognition of women as equals, and the move to an all-volunteer military.
He served during major stages of military transformation, when President Truman eliminated segregation in the armed forces, placing qualification before discrimination. It was also a time when legislation was passed allowing women to enter the military, even though women had already served in both World Wars and some had served in the Civil War.

Even after his retirement, Coleman continually expressed the priority for the readiness of the United States Armed Forces and the personnel policies that best serve that readiness. He also understood that American culture was going to change and with that, the military had to adapt in order to attract and retain new recruits. This later led to him advocating on behalf of lesbian and gay troupes in an effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

He used his direct experience of discrimination to provide persuasive arguments when he testified in 2008 before the House Committee about the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay servicemen. He was a member of a panel that proposed ending the policy, comparing it to decisions to integrate blacks and allow women to serve in expanded capacities. He used his personal knowledge to address the relationship between personal conduct and unit cohesion which were topics and arguments previously made when deciding whether to integrate blacks and women into the military.

He continued his advocacy to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including writing a letter to President Obama to enlist his support. He also participated in a forum at the Harry S. Truman Library in which he discussed the argument that desegregation would hurt unit efficiency and cohesion and why Truman chose to issue an executive order. disintegrating the army.

His advocacy enabled LGBTQ soldiers and civilians to serve openly, with pride and honor with the repeal finally enacted in December 2010, with the effective date of September 20, 2011.

Coleman passed away on September 1, 2021 from cancer and a celebration of life ceremony was recently held on June 17 in his honor. The ceremony began with her interment at Private Valhalla Memorial Park, followed by a celebration of life at the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center. Maj. Gen. Miguel A. Castellanos, commanding general of the 84th Training Command, Lt. Col. Kenny Honken, chaplain of the 84th Training Command and members of the 86th Training Division, 84th Training Command training provided full military funeral honors.

Castellanos delivered remarks acknowledging Coleman’s service and his great contributions to the military and our nation.

“It is thanks to leaders like him that diversity in the Army is recognized and prioritized by its workforce,” said Castellanos. “Through his service, he contributed to something bigger than himself and helped build a stronger future for all of us.”

Coleman’s sons, Michael and Gary, and daughter, Michelle, attended and accepted the funeral flag and historical records from their father’s time of service.

During Coleman’s military service, he received two awards including the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Reserve Elements Medal of Honor and Paratrooper Badge.

Date taken: 20.06.2022
Date posted: 20.06.2022 16:03
Story ID: 423376

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