Veterans headstones

Correcting a Century-Old Injustice: VA Honors Black Soldiers

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration (NCA) has taken a significant step in addressing historical racial injustices by conducting a memorial ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas. This event commemorated 17 Black soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, executed after racially biased courts martial following the 1917 Houston Riots. The initiative to replace their rudimentary headstones with ones that fully detail their honors and service marks an attempt to correct a century-old wrong.

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Revisiting a Troubled Chapter

The ceremony comes in the wake of a 2023 Army review that acknowledged the racial biases influencing the original trials of these soldiers, leading to their wrongful convictions. This significant acknowledgment has led to the overturning of these convictions and the posthumous granting of honorable discharges, challenging the century-old narrative and addressing a historical oversight.

Late Justice Amidst Ongoing Scrutiny

In a long-delayed acknowledgment of injustice, the Army reexamined these cases in 2023, admitting the undeniable: the trials were marred by racism, leading to convictions that were anything but fair. This admission led to the Secretary of the Army annulling all convictions and restoring the soldiers’ records to reflect honorable discharges, a small solace for a grave historical injustice.

The Ceremony: A Step Towards Accountability

The ceremony, while a step in the right direction, raises questions about the VA’s commitment to addressing its complex legacy of racial inequality. New headstones now bear the soldiers’ names, states, ranks, and units — symbols of respect previously denied. An interpretive sign has also been introduced, aimed at educating the public and offering some measure of closure to the families still haunted by the shadow of injustice.

VA’s Efforts to Address Past Injustices

The dedication ceremony, articulated by VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Matthew Quinn, aimed to publicly right historical wrongs and honor the affected soldiers’ true service. While the event has been seen as a step forward, it also raises questions about the extent of systemic change within military and veterans‘ institutions. The initiative is part of a broader effort by the VA to confront and correct racial disparities, reflecting a growing acknowledgment of past injustices and the need for ongoing reform.

Looking Forward

As the nation continues to confront its history of racial injustice, the VA’s actions at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery represent a step toward acknowledging and honoring the contributions of Black soldiers who served under the most challenging circumstances. The event underscores the importance of remembering all veterans’ sacrifices and the need for continued efforts to ensure equity and justice within the veteran community. The path ahead requires not only symbolic gestures but also substantial reforms to address the legacy of racial bias and ensure that the VA fulfills its promise to serve all veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve.


What was the purpose of the recent headstone dedication ceremony hosted by the VA?

The ceremony was conducted to address a historical injustice by dedicating new headstones for 17 Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment. These soldiers were executed following the racially charged 1917 Houston Riots and were previously denied full military honors on their headstones. The new headstones are part of an effort to rectify past wrongs and properly honor their service.

Why were the soldiers’ convictions reviewed and overturned?

In 2023, the Army reviewed the cases of these soldiers and determined that their trials were marred by racial bias, lacking in fairness and due process. This led to the overturning of their convictions and the assignment of posthumous honorable discharges, acknowledging that they were wrongfully treated due to racial prejudice.

What changes are included in the new headstones?

The new headstones now include the soldiers’ full names, ranks, unit details, and dates of death, unlike the original markers, which listed only their names and years of death. This change is a significant acknowledgment of their service and a step towards providing them with the honors they were previously denied.

What is the VA’s Agency Equity Action Plan?

The Agency Equity Action Plan is an initiative by the VA aimed at identifying and eliminating disparities within VA services and improving outcomes for all veterans, particularly those from historically underserved communities. The plan involves enhancing access to VA services, addressing economic security, and ensuring that all veterans receive equitable treatment and benefits.

How does the VA plan to address ongoing racial disparities and injustices within its services?

The VA intends to address racial disparities and injustices through various measures, including implementing the Agency Equity Action Plan, increasing outreach and support to historically underserved veteran communities, and continually reviewing and updating its policies and practices to ensure fairness and equity. Additionally, events like the headstone dedication ceremony are part of the VA’s broader efforts to acknowledge and rectify past injustices, signaling a commitment to change and accountability.

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  1. I was narcotic medication. I had to call in every month five days early and make sure it was ordered so it would come in the mail on time. After months of doing this I was eventually accused of taking too much or running out early so calling in for more. That wasn’t the case. Easier just to go to a private doctor, pay the money, and pick up the prescription slip every month and just go get the medication right then and there. That way no worries about it coming on time and no false accusations against me by the complete idiots that they hire. And of course nothing can be done about the slander, defamation, and incompetence that causes me to have to call them in the first place. I left the mother fucker forever. They inflamed my PTSD..and denied care for spinal problems. Just a big joke and political game for those sick people.

  2. How about they honor anyone at all? There’s a thousand things they won’t do at VA and they can deny care whenever they wish for whatever reason they wish. Meanwhile, they’re gonna claim they’ll give hormones and chop off penises to make people happy? How about disk replacements for spinal conditions? They won’t do that when it’s crucial to live any kind of life in many cases but they’ll chop off penises. I doubt it!

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