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Black Americans have had an ongoing presence in the American military, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Vietnam to the War in Iraq, yet their contributions are often relegated to a footnote of history, if mentioned at all. The recent successes and wide visibility of African Americans in the military -- such as those of Colin Powell and Shoshanna Johnson -- belie a harsh reality: the Army was segregated until the Korean War. Only in the last fifty years have blacks been allowed to serve in a manner commensurate with both their skills and commitment.
Now, in a book that honors their service to their country, more than two dozen veterans and military personnel, including Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, one of the foremost spokespersons to the media on the War in Iraq, speak for themselves and their peers about their experiences -- in combat, in the barracks, and in their hometowns after they returned from war. Each profile is accompanied by photographs of the men and women from their days in uniform, as well as specially commissioned contemporary portraits from acclaimed photographer Ron Tarver. With stories of patriotism combined with a determination to overcome obstacles, We Were There is an inspiring account of the extraordinary sacrifices of everyday Americans.
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Yvonne Latty is a native of New York City. She earned a B.F.A. in film/television and an M.A. in journalism from New York University before becoming a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and an adjunct professor of journalism at Villanova University. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.From Publishers Weekly:
Taking a cue from Bloods, the bestselling 1984 oral history of black Vietnam War veterans, Philadelphia Daily News reporter Latty allows 28 veterans from five wars, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, do the talking in this affecting volume. The stories tell of college dropouts who were drafted into service, eager adventurers seeing the world courtesy of Uncle Sam and dedicated career soldiers pursuing lifelong dreams. The military, often praised as an engine of integration, receives a more nuanced evaluation here: several veterans look back on battles on two fronts—the first against foreign enemies and the second against bigoted white comrades-in-arms. Leonard Smith offers a heartbreaking memory of passing out sweets to just-freed concentration camp survivors; Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. describes landing at Omaha Beach: "If you ever want to know what hell is like, D day was it." Former World War II, Korea and Vietnam POWs add unsettling glimpses into their harrowing ordeals. Veterans of the Gulf War tell more upbeat stories, remembering their military service with pride and, in some cases, affection. Female perspectives on race and war also command attention: a World War II Army private, one of about 800 black women deployed to Europe to sort mail, still marvels over the European crowds that cheered her unit in parades; two Vietnam nurses share frank, heart-stopping accounts of combat zone carnage. Award-winning photographer Ron Tarver’s evocative, dignified portraits, juxtaposed with early snapshots of the youthful soldiers, frame each testimony. The volume doesn’t break new ground, but offers a celebration of unsung heroes and an important historical document.
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