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Remembering a Buffalo Soldier

It’s a sunny day and what better way to soak up the warm rays than to kick back on a beach and enjoy some classic reggae music, courtesy of Bob Marley and the Wailers. The boombox is blaring “Buffalo Soldiers,” and you get caught up in the lyrics and the meaning behind the words. Written as a protest song, Marley wanted the song to bring attention to the role of the buffalo soldiers who were African-American cavalry fighters during the American-Indian Wars starting in 1866. These valiant men were a smattering of former slaves, freemen and African-American Civil War soldiers.

Meaning Behind the Term Buffalo Soldier

With each passing military skirmish, the regiments comprised of African-American men simply became known as buffalo soldiers. But why did this particular nickname stick? There is actually some controversy with regard to the origin behind the name.

Everyone agrees about how the regiment developed. After the Civil War, trailblazers moved west of the Mississippi to settle the land. These settlers were escorted by African-American members of the 10th Cavalry, who happened to be responsible for safe passage through territories populated by Native American tribes. During this time period, soldiers were paid $13 per month, which was the best option available after the Civil War for African Americans. But here’s the juncture where the name origin starts to diverge.

In the winter of 1877, warriors from the Cheyenne tribe coined the name, which actually translates to wild buffalo.” According the founder of the regiment, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, the Apache nation chose ‘buffalo soldiers’ because the men had curly, kinky hair like bison. But other sources claim the nickname evolved out of the fierce fighting ability of the 10th Cavalry regiment. No matter which story you believe, buffalo soldiers became the term used to describe all African-American military men throughout U.S. history.

World War II Veteran Honored

buffalo soldierMilitary veterans are important threads in the fabric of this country. They should always be honored and revered for their patriotic service to the United States. One such veteran acknowledged by many local and even national organizations for his bravery and valor was Elmer Vincent Sublett. Enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1940, Elmer served during World War II as a member of an elite buffalo solider fighting group.buffalo soldier

At Chapters Health System, we recognize the unique needs of America’s veterans and their families. In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, we offer the We Honor Veterans program at its highest designation, Level Four.

As part of the We Honor Veterans program, our volunteers provide a unique connection to other veterans at the end of life. Veteran volunteers can provide companionship by:

  • Listening to patients as they reminisce
  • Recording their stories
  • Documenting their stories in a Legacy booklet
  • Helping connect to the Veterans History Project
  • Honoring veterans in pinning ceremonies, which provides gratitude and appreciation for time served

buffalo soldiersNinety-eight-year old Elmer was honored with a military honor pinning in his home in Valrico, which was performed by LifePath Hospice Spiritual Care Coordinator Bruce Souder. Shortly after this ceremony, Elmer’s daughter invited Bruce to attend another celebration service that featured a special presentation from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn as well as one from the Tampa Bay area Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle riding group.

Interested in Volunteering?

If you are a veteran and have a few hours a month to help support other veterans at the end of life, please consider becoming a volunteer for Chapters Health at any of our affiliates — Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice  and LifePath Hospice — in Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties. It’s as easy as filling out an application; just click here.

At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to [email protected]

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Corporate Communications for Chapters Health System, manages all content and communications for the not-for-profit organization.


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