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Memorial Day: A Time Of Reflection For Local Veterans
5/25/2016 4:51:03 PM

Army Veteran William “Bill” Saunders
By Barney Blakeney

As the local community prepares to celebrate another Memorial Day with cookouts that bring together friends and family, for many Memorial Day is a time to reflect on military experiences that led to productive careers, and for some, bittersweet memories.

Freddie Jenkins of Snowden says he at first resisted seeking to advance his rank while a member of the Army Reserves, but he never has regretted the decision. And Paul Leonard solemnly reflects on his Air Force career each Memorial Day when he travels to national cemetery in Beaufort where his two brothers, who were Army veterans, are buried.

Charleston businessman and civil rights activist William Saunders reflected on his military experience last weekend saying his greatest regret was returning to Charleston after risking his life and being wounded in Korea to face the stark reality of racism in the Jim Crow south. At 15, Saunders lied about his age and joined the Army in 1951. Five decades later in 2002, he was awarded the Purple Heart.

Lest we forget, the women of the military hold an equal place of honor on Memorial Day. Some said women couldn’t lead troops, fly aircrafts, or jump out of them. They couldn’t drive trucks, maintain equipment, or serve in combat. And they couldn’t be a wife, mother, and soldier at the same time. But they do all that and more.

With over 400 members, the National Association of Black Military Women (NABMW) represents women in the military whose roles have expanded from support and compliment duties to active participation in combat environments.

Founded in 1976 with the motto “Telling Her Story”, NABWM members show the world women in the armed forces have served, are serving, and continue to serve with distinction and honor. Phoebe Skrine Fludd, one of few local members of the organization, is a retired U.S. Postal employee who enlisted in the Army in 1949 after graduating Burke High School. She was one of three Black women from the Charleston area to do so that year.

And while Memorial Day honors America’s war dead, there are others who feel some soldiers who were not military also should be honored. Members of the Palmetto State Law Enforcement Officers Association (PSLEOA) Charleston chapter in the past tried to get a memorial to the first four Black police officers hired by the City of Charleston in 1950. They were Christopher B. Ward, Walter Burke, Cambridge Jenkins and Benjamin Taylor. All now are deceased.

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