WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
When Col. Cory Brown first took over leadership of the B-2 program office, he wanted to find a way to connect his workforce to the local community. A conversation between Brown and a contracting officer in his office, Capt. Mister Raby led the program to adopt the Charles Young Buffalo Soldier National Monument located just to the East of Wright-Patterson AFB in Wilberforce, Ohio.
A few years earlier, Raby met and befriended new neighbor Robert Stewart. Stewart served as the newly appointed superintendent of the National Parks Service's 401st National Monument. When Raby offered to help out on the property whenever needed, Stewart put him to work.
Since making that offer, Raby and his family have spent many hours volunteering on the 150+-year-old property. They grew to love the National Monument's historical significance, what it means to the local area and the nation.
The conversation between Brown and Raby led to a plan that Raby hoped would mutually benefit his organization and the monument he had come to love.
When Raby presented the plan, Brown realized it was precisely the type of project he saught.
A conversation between Brown and Stewart solidified his decision to develop a relationship between the B-2 office and the monument.
The National Parks week celebration, held annually in April, begins with Military Monday. Raby and Brown thought that it would be the perfect day to inaugurate the relationship by having a day of service. That decision culminated in B-2 program office employees showing up on Military Monday and pitching in on whatever projects Stewart and his crew needed help accomplishing.
Brown explained his reasoning during a small opening ceremony before the day of work.
"You might wonder what the B-2 office at Wright-Patt has to do with Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers," said Brown. "There's a military legacy here that needs to be supported…, that has meaning, and that needs to be remembered."
Charles Young's story is about the challenges he faced and overcame while growing up as the son of slaves and the challenges he faced as a black man serving in a segregated military.
The challenges Young faced throughout his career as an Army officer are many of the same challenges the Air Force is addressing in its renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Young was born into slavery in 1864. He was the ninth African American to receive an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was the third African American to graduate from the institution.
Young served a distinguished career in the Army both as a warrior and as a diplomat.
He led soldiers into battle in the Philippines. In 1903 he became the first African American superintendent of a National Park when as a Buffalo Soldier, he was assigned to protect the then Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. Young became the first African American military attaché serving at posts in Haiti, Liberia, and Nigeria. At the time of his death in 1922, he had risen to become the highest-ranking African American officer to serve in the Regular Army.
"We are still facing some of the same challenges that Young faced. It's a lesson we're having to relearn again and again, so it's important to look to the past and learn from it in order for us to be better officers, leaders, and government civilians. The example that Col. Young set for us to follow speaks to our core values of service before self and excellence in all we do. His example is worth remembering and emulating as we face today's challenges," said Brown.
The colonel also explained why he sees value in community partnerships and how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped inform his thoughts.
"I think the past year has taught us the critical importance of making connections, not only with our immediate teammates but also with the communities where we live. Being in the military, we move around a lot, and it's easy to take for granted the wonderful opportunities available in the local area," added Brown.
He continued, "Capt. Raby presented a plan that allowed our office to connect with our history and our local community. I see this as a first step in what I hope will be a long-term partnership between our two organizations."
Stewart echoed Brown's thoughts on building community connections explaining that Young was also a proponent of being an active member of his local community.
"Col. Young was not only a member of the military, but he was also a member of the community and believed in community involvement. The home was originally built in 1839 and became affectionately known as Youngsholm after Young, and his family purchased it in 1907. It was the social hub for all local area events," said Stewart.
Assigned to the area close to where he had grown up, Young taught a new military science and tactics course at Wilberforce University. He organized the military training program, which grew to include over 100 cadets by the turn of the century. There were very few programs of its kind in American colleges or universities, and none were in African American institutions.
Young grew to love the area so much that he made it his permanent home. Youngsholm became his refuge where he raised his family and mentored a generation of future leaders.
Youngsholm became a National Historic Landmark in 1974. President Barack Obama established it as a National Monument in 2013.
Military Monday is part of the annual National Park Week celebration
that NPS uses to thank military members and their families for their service. Many national parks have direct connections to the American military
—there are dozens of battlefields, military parks, and historic sites
that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans.
Many National park programs and their partners offer endless opportunities for military members, veterans, and their families to enjoy their public lands and neighborhoods.