Fort Belvoir, Va. –
Editor’s note: This is one of several articles celebrating Black History Month. We asked our employees how they contribute to the health and wellness of themselves, their relationships, their communities, and the planet.
“I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together.” –John Burroughs, American Naturalist.
Peggy Shirey, Supervisory Auditor, Nashville Branch Office, is a self-proclaimed outdoor lover and visits the national parks whenever she can, especially when she’s visiting somewhere new. “Being outdoors always makes me feel better,” says Peggy. “Our national parks are a wonderful resource that not every country has, and I encounter many foreign visitors also enjoying our national parks. For all these reasons, I do encourage others to visit our national parks or at least spend some time in nature.”
In addition to health benefits, Peggy also enjoys the many new things she learns while visiting parks. She shared an article on The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Xenia, Ohio, that brings together Black history and the national parks. A summary of the article is below.
Charles Young was born in Kentucky to enslaved parents in 1864. He attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point where he was its third Black graduate. He went on to become the first Black military attaché to a foreign country and served in various assignments from Haiti and Liberia to Mexico and Nigeria. When he was medically discharged from active duty, Col. Young was the highest-ranking Black officer in the military, having been promoted to colonel.
One of Col. Young’s assignments was to Fort Duchesne, Utah, where he led the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who served in the US military during the Civil War and continued to serve afterward. In addition to their military duties, the Buffalo Soldiers also served as some of the first care takers of the national parks where they fought fires, curbed poaching, and constructed roads and trails. During this time, Col. Young became the first black U.S National Park superintendent when his Cavalry unit was sent to Sequoia National Park, California.
Following his death, Col. Young was given full military honors and burial in Arlington National Cemetery. The Department of Defense recently approved a posthumous honorary promotion to the grade of brigadier general for Col. Young. The ceremony is tentatively scheduled for spring 2022.