Bill seeks to honor WWI vets of color

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
United States Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced legislation to honor WWI veterans of color. He spoke at the Empowerment Center in Cambridge.

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced new bipartisan legislation to honor WWI Veterans of color with local veterans, historians, and community members at the Cambridge Empowerment Center.

The World War I Valor Medals Review Act will ensure that veterans of color who served during WWI are honored and that their stories are told – like William Butler, an African American from Salisbury whose valor was recognized with France’s Croix de Guerre with Palm, the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross, and a recommendation for the Medal of Honor – which he never received.

Servicemembers of all races, religions, and backgrounds fought in WWI, but the Medal of Honor was denied to minority veterans until the 1990s. “Senator Van Hollen is committed to righting that historical injustice, and the legislation is supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion,” a statement from the senator’s office said.

Cpl. Butler was a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” In the action for which he was decorated, Cpl. Butler fought and killed several German soldiers, freed American prisoners and took enemy prisoners.

Check the Dorchester Banner’s April 27 issue for full coverage of the event and details on Cpl. Butler’s heroism.

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