Military & Veterans Life

Cover Story: Black History Month - Part II

Cover Story: Black History Month

To continue celebrating Black History Month, Veterans Advantage recognizes four black men who served and made outstanding achievements in their fields.

Gen. Michael Langley

Michael Langley - TopRank
Michael Langley was named the first black four-star general in the Marine Corps in August of 2022. He serves as the commander of the United States Africa Command and, as of last year, he was one of only six Black generals in the Marines, Stars and Stripes reported. 

Black individuals make up 9 percent of active-duty officers but only 6.5 percent of generals, according to 2020 Demographics from the U.S. Department of Defense. During his promotion ceremony in 2022, Langley was sure to commend military families for their endless contributions and support to the Joint Forces. 

“As many nominees have said in testimony before me, military families form the bedrock upon which our Joint Force readiness stands," he said. "Without their support, I would not be here today." The Louisiana native grew up on racially diverse Air Force bases, as his dad was a master sergeant in the United States Air Force. Langley was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1985. He holds a master's degree in national security strategic studies from the Naval War College, and a master's degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.

 

Gen. Darryl A. Williams

Darryl A. Williams - TopRank
As another “first '' in black military history, Army General Darryl A. Williams served as the first black Superintendent of West Point Military Academy, the 60th in that post. He graduated from the academy himself in 1983 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant of Field Artillery. Before leading West Point, Williams was the commander of NATO Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey, and served as the commander of U.S. Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy, which merged with the U.S. Army Europe. He assumed command of U.S. Army Europe and Africa in June 2022, and took command of NATO’s Allied Land Command in August 2022.

General Williams’ awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Parachutist Badge, Presidential Service Badge, and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

When Defense News asked him about the Ukrainian War last fall, he replied, “What do I think about it? I’m very proud of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And I’m very proud of how they’re conducting and comporting themselves. They strike me as — I’ve met a few of them, not at all of them — but they are professional. I’m really impressed about how they’re conducting themselves in the land domain.”

 

Larry Doby

Larry Doby - TopVet
Larry Doby was the first black baseball player to break the color barrier in the American League three months after Jackie Robinson’s famous breakthrough - and he also served in the Navy during World War II. Doby signed with the Cleveland Indians in July 1947 and became one of the first Black baseball players blacks to win a World Series the following year. He helped the Indians win 111 games, which was second-best in MLB history at the time. It was something he could never fathom as a young black man.

“I never dreamed that far ahead," he said. "Growing up in a segregated society, you couldn't have thought that that was the way it was gonna be. There was no bright spot as far as looking at baseball until Mr. Robinson got the opportunity to play in Montreal in '46."

Before his outstanding baseball career, he served two years in the Navy, spending 1943 and part of 1944 at Camp Robert Smalls at the Great Lakes Naval Training School near Chicago. His father, who also served in the military, was a World War I veteran. Doby later served as the second black manager in the majors with the Chicago White Sox.

Ice-T

Ice-T - Rapper
Rapper and actor Ice T also served in the military. From 1977-1979, Tracy Lauren Marrow (his birth name) served as Private First Class in the 25th Infantry Division. His parents both passed away by the time he was 13 so he moved to Los Angeles to live with an aunt. Gangs were prevalent in LA in that time and though he had turned to music already, he had to sell stolen car stereos for extra money. To support his pregnant girlfriend, he decided to enlist in the Army. His daughter, LeTesha Marrow, was born on March 20, 1976.

“When I had my daughter I was like, man, I'm going to go to jail, I got to do something, and I went to an enlistment office. Next thing you know, I'm in the military," he said.

After basic training he was stationed in Hawaii, where he began to learn turntablism and rapping. He received an honorable discharge after 2 years because he was a single father.

His DJ and music career took off after his time in the service. He adopted the nickname Ice T as a tribute to his inspiration, Iceberg Slim. His first single, "Cold Wind Madness,” was released in 1983 to underground success. He went on to release numerous albums in the 1980s and 1990s and moved into acting roles on television and film. He has won two Grammy Awards and has been nominated for several MTV Video Music Awards.
 

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