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  • A Salute to the Buffalo Soldiers

    By Linda Wheeler
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 19, 1997; Page B01

    Buffalo Soldiers
    Mark Matthews, a 103-year-old former Buffalo Soldier, seated, talks with 1st Sgt. Frank Goodman. Marie Poirier Marzi/TWP
    Raymond Bradshaw, of Northeast Washington, stared at the 1942 photograph of an all-black cavalry regiment lined up on the stairs of a Fort Myer barracks. He was looking for one particular soldier.

    "That's me. There I am," he said, grinning. "That's the real Raymond Bradshaw. That's the Buffalo Soldier Raymond Bradshaw."

    For Bradshaw, 79, and other veterans of the regiment, which served in World Wars I and II, a recognition ceremony yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Myer was most welcome.

    "Nobody ever seemed to know about the 9th and 10th Cavalry," Bradshaw said, describing two units that were stationed at Fort Myer. "I'm glad somebody knows me now. I hate that it came so late that now I am old and crippled, but that's okay."

    Deactivated after World War II, the cavalry regiment seemed lost to history until recently. Its recognition comes at a time when other black soldiers also are receiving long-overdue attention. In the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, a $2 million memorial is under construction to honor the black Union soldiers of the Civil War.

    The Buffalo Soldier name originated with the legendary black soldiers, some of them Civil War veterans, who fought in the Indian wars on the western frontier. Historians say American Indians gave that name to the troops because of their curly hair and as a sign of respect.

    The 9th Cavalry was honored yesterday. It originally was stationed in Fort Robinson, Neb., but was assigned to Fort Myer in 1891 as a reward for heroism in the war against the Apaches. Known for their fine horsemanship, the unit's soldiers participated in presidential parades before returning to Nebraska in 1894.

    Yesterday, a red-, white- and blue-ribboned wreath was placed at the grave of Thomas Shaw, a Buffalo Soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor.

    The 10th Calvary, Bradshaw's unit, gained fame as part of Gen. John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing's 1916 expedition into Mexico. In 1931, part of the unit was posted at Fort Myer, where members performed in parades and horse shows, escorted prisoners and tended President Franklin D. Roosevelt's horses.

    Two members of the 10th Cavalry showed up yesterday wearing the same khaki uniforms and brown leather riding boots they had worn on active duty. Frederick Ambush, 76, of Northeast Washington, joked with J.W. Rice Sr., 76, of Philadelphia, about the shine on his boots.

    "You know these come in dull brown," he said. "You have to really polish them."

    Ambush said the ceremony at Fort Myer was important to him. "It's a matter of the heart," he said, touching his chest. "There are not a lot of us left."

    During the ceremony, 103-year-old Mark Matthews helped unveil a plaque dedicating his old barracks in the name of the Buffalo Soldiers. He stood tall, leaning lightly on a cane and smiling broadly.

    Matthews, according to information provided by Fort Myer, was born Aug. 7, 1894, in Greenville, Ala. He enlisted with the Buffalo Soldiers at age 16, serving in Arizona and Texas. In 1931, he was assigned to Fort Myer, where he trained new recruits in horsemanship until his retirement in 1949.

    "I did it all," Matthews said, describing his military service in a brief interview. "Yes, I was there."

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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