Fundraising for the nation’s first monument to honor African American veterans across all U.S. conflicts is getting a boost from Catholic Health, and the company’s employees are being recognized the process.
At a ceremony Wednesday morning at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, Catholic Health President and CEO Mark Sullivan called up a dozen of his company’s African American employees. They helped sign a check for $50,000 towards the construction of the park’s new African American Veterans Monument. And as they did, each one proudly announced their name, rank and in what branch of the United States military they had served.
“Recognizing the veterans is not just about the monument. It’s about including them in the process,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan, the employees and some of Catholic Health’s board members took the morning off and rode busses to the waterfront for the ceremony. On board, they shared their stories of service.
For Kenmore Mercy Hospital Facilities Attendant Charles Fleming, that kind of recognition is important. He brought his 11-year-old son along to watch as he was called up in front of the audience.
“It means a lot for him just to see me up here,” said Fleming, who served as an infantryman in the Army and Army Reserve.
“Maybe he can take that with him when he goes to school, and he has to get up and tell stories about his dad.”
While other monuments across the country honor African Americans in specific conflicts like World War II and Vietnam, this will be the first to honor their contributions to all wars from the American Revolution to present day. The monument will feature 12 black columns for each of the 12 conflicts.
Nursing Assistant Sharon Sloan, who served in the Army as a finance specialist, says that’s important.
“Sometimes we’re missed. We’re missed in history,” said Sloan.
Warren Galloway, an Air Force retiree who chairs the monument’s committee, lauded the example being set by Catholic Health in both their donation and recognition of African American Veteran employees.
The company asked that the $50,000 help pay for bricks with the names of veterans engraved in them. Galloway is using that example as a challenge to other Western New York Companies to do the same.
Groundbreaking on the monument is set for Nov. 9. With hopes for a mild winter, construction is expected to be completed by summer 2019.