Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Buffalo Soldiers honored with march

Troubled youths pay tribute to black regiments

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Forty-five young men, ages 13-18, dressed in blue, red and gold uniforms, marched Tuesday down Montgomery Road, some on horseback, to the cheers of Evanston residents.

        Their uniforms are replicas of the cavalry and infantry regiments known as the Buffalo Soldiers. They are members of VisionQuest, a national youth service organization designed to help troubled youths turn around their lives.

[photo] VisionQuest members marched Tuesday as the Buffalo Soldiers, the first black army unit made of up the 9th and 10th Cavalries.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        The group has incorporated the living history of the Buffalo Soldiers as part of their many programs to relate to minorities.

        With feet synchronized in military cadence, they marched into the parking lot of the Evanston Recreation Center and formed into ranks.

        The precision, discipline and military decorum are what they understand about the Buffalo Soldiers, black soldiers who served in segregated regiments from 1866-1944.

        Fred Jones, 78, a Buffalo Soldier who served in the regiments in 1943-44, rode a horse down Montgomery Road.

        Mr. Jones, a retired deputy sheriff from Los Angeles County, Calif., is a board member of VisionQuest.

        “I was a Buffalo Soldier toward the end, when the group was getting ready to disband,” Mr. Jones said. “We didn't get into any shootouts, but it was dangerous just being there patrolling the borders and preventing people from entering the country illegally.”

[photo] Sgt. Maj. Tiger Gaines of Lawton, Okla., a re-enactor with VisionQuest, dressed as a Buffalo Soldier and rode in a short parade to honor the former army unit.
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        The nickname Buffalo Soldiers was bestowed on the 9th and 10th Cavalry by Cheyenne warriors out of respect for their fierce fighting in 1867.

        The unit was created by an act of Congress in 1866.

        They were originally assigned to fight Mexican revolutionaries, outlaws, rustlers and hostile Indians while they explored and mapped the Southwest to string telegraph lines for frontier outposts.

        Mr. Jones grew up in Walnut Hills and attended the old Cummins School.

        “I think VisionQuest is a great program for troubled youth,” he said.

        Juan, a 17-year-old ward of the juvenile court in Philadelphia, agreed.

        “I like it, sir,” he said of VisionQuest while standing at attention. “I am just looking forward to going into the Marines and being a good military man and a good father, sir.”

        He was put into the program after a narcotics conviction. He has served six months and will be free in January.

        Bob Burton, chief executive officer of VisionQuest, said they have 1,700 youths in 22 camps in seven states.

        “The Buffalo Soldiers program is just one of many that we do through living history,” Mr. Burton said. “When you can take history and give these kids a chance to see the discipline in it, it makes a difference.”

        The group's appearance here was sponsored by the Evanston Weed & Seed, a federally funded program aimed at curbing crime and making police officers better-known in the community. Evanston received $175,000 for the program in 1999.

        “We would like to get a chapter of VisionQuest here,” said Yvonne Brown, chairman of the prevention/intervention program of Weed and Seed. “This could be the first step.”



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