| By: Charles Blatcher, Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations|
The National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations announce plans for the grave side ceremony for the legendary Colonel Charles Young in Arlington National Cemetery has been cancelled. The event, co-sponsored by the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association, Washington, DC Chapter was scheduled for June 1, 2019. Arlington informed us of the cancellation after invitations and public notice had been extended inviting Veterans to join us for the program. According to Cemetery Officials, the cancellation came at the request of one of the purported descendants in the Colonel’s family.
We have host ceremonies at Arlington honoring Colonel Young for almost a decade. We have never encountered any difficulties working with Arlington’s Staff. They were quite apologetic in explaining the position they had been placed in delivering the notification of our cancellation. We were told that an individual in the family requested we be denied authorization for a ceremony at the grave side without the family’s prior permission. All the known descendants were contacted and invited to attend the ceremony.
Let me explain the impact of the individual’s decision. The events we host at Arlington normally draw a senior audience representing the member organizations of the Coalition. The cemetery staff provided the designated number of chairs, riser, podium, microphone, canopy and whatever necessities needed to make the event run as smooth as possible. We are speaking of attendees ranging from middle age to their early nineties. The Staff also make special accommodations for the handicapped. Arlington does an outstanding job! Without their support our ceremony would not be possible.
We used the past ceremonies to achieve a few things. Foremost, to pay homage to the legendary Buffalo Soldier who hallow the grounds. It allows the opportunities for us to keep the Colonel and his legacy in the public conscious. The camaraderie at the ceremonies were always something special. This year Lieutenant General William E. Ward, USA retired was the planned keynote speaker. The theme of his presentation was to have been “Honor and Dedication.” We were also planning to acknowledge Wilberforce University for presenting the Colonel a posthumous honorary doctorate degree during last year’s commencement ceremony. Attendees of past ceremonies were to be surprised seeing the Colonel’s wife, Ada’s name added to the headstone. Working with Arlington’s staff last year we discovered she was also buried in the plot. We apprized the Colonel’s descendants of the finding and they added her name to the headstone. I would have spoken briefly about the work we are doing in Kentucky/Ohio in promoting tourism around the Colonel’s legacy. Our program normally concluded with a downhill walk to the grave to place the wreath and for the departing prayer.
As for my thoughts on the matter, I recall something once told to me by an Old Friend. He said, ”you know you’re succeeding when those that contributed little or nothing want to be credited the most.” We have grown accustom to direct communication with Arlington National Cemetery Staff in planning our activities on the grounds. We have no intention of placing a third party between the relationship. There are many heroes buried at Arlington worthy of a ceremony. Few people are aware of Major General Charles Rogers, USA who is buried on the grounds. Major General Rogers is the only Black General Officer in American History who is the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. A course in Black Military History could be taught on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. We will not miss Colonel Young, our advocacy on his behalf will continue. We will stop by the grave site and pay our individual respects without fanfare or permission periodically. We are still planning to be the Washington on June 1st, 2019. We are inviting Veterans to join us for a visit to the National Museum of American Indians located at 300 Maryland Avenue NE. We plan to be there at 2:o’clock PM. Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org###################