To celebrate Black History Month, the Republican National Committee (RNC) hosted a reception in honor of Commander Vincent D. McBeth and the historic Harlem Hellfighters at the African American Civil War Museum on Wednesday.
The event began with a commemoration of the 369th Infantry Regiment—known as the "Harlem Hellfighters." An African-American regiment in World War I, the Hellfighters are among the most decorated American units, and spent more time in combat in Europe than any other American regiment.
The French army awarded the Hellfighters with the Croix de Guerre, and notable soldiers from the regiment included Vertner Woodson Tandy, one of the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and Benjamin O. Davis Sr., who became the first African American general in U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.
When the Harlem Hellfighters returned home they were greeted with praise for their bravery during the war even during a time of racial segregation.
The program concluded with RNC Co-Chairman Sharon Day recognizing Commander Vincent D. McBeth with the Lincoln-Douglass Award for his impressive military service and loyalty to America’s veterans. The Lincoln-Douglass Award was named for Frederick Douglass and for the first Republican president.
Commander McBeth is a retired naval officer who also served as a White House fellow to President George W. Bush, special assistant to the secretary of Veterans Affairs, and as an aide to three secretaries of the Navy.
"My father and my father-in-law were veterans of World War II, my brother served in the first Gulf War, and my uncles served from Pearl Harbor to Korea. For me, this recognition honors them and their examples of selfless service in defense of freedom. It is also homage to all who answered the call and took up arms for this great nation we are all so fortunate to call home," said Commander McBeth accepting the award.
The event drew a wide attendance, which included African-American veterans who served in Vietnam all the way through current military operations.
"Our country owes so much to the black veterans who served honorably and sacrificed greatly. We must always remember their many contributions, sacrifices and stories. They have earned our deepest appreciation and respect," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.