Columbus, Ga (WRBL) – The United States military has defended our nation for hundreds of years. Men and women gave their lives preserve our way of life. Like our country, the role of minorities in branches like the infantry had to evolve.

“It speaks to diversity. Some things the local public will really ever get a chance to see. We’ve been diverse for quite some time. We’ve demonstrated things like inclusion for the past 100 years,” said Martin Celestine Jr. the Vice President of Operations for the National Infantry Museum.

President Harry Truman signed an executive order banning segregation in the U.S. Military on July 26th, 1948. The role of African American soldiers, and minorities as a whole, started in roles known as “dirty jobs.”

“Digging trenches, cooks and different things. Some of our mishaps and some of the trials that we went through as a country it really forced our hand into really building a team. I think it really showcased not just African American but minorities period. As a whole the importance of diversity in a combat environment,” said Celestine.

Minorities continue to make big impacts in the infantry. African Americans hold some of the highest ranks in the military, like TRADOC Commanding General Gary Brito. Women are now able to serve in combat arms specialties like the infantry. Some soldiers, like Alwin Cashe, became the first African American recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. It’s a testament to the impact minorities have on our armed forces.

“I think it really speaks to us as an evolution and how minorities as a whole. We had all different races serve at that time. So it has really strengthened us as a whole,” said Celestine.
The men and women who helped change the face of the military will always have an impact on today’s service members.

“If it wasn’t for those individuals we mentioned earlier, a Martin Celestine from the U.S. Virgin Islands would have never had the opportunity to serve as the infantry school Sergeant Major for the former Maneuver Center of Excellence Combat Sergeant Major. If you take a look on the wall there’s only 5 right? Those opportunities were made possible by all the people that came before me,” said Celestine.

The National Infantry Museum is a free admission museum. Their operating hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday through Saturday. The N.I.M. is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and closed on Monday.