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2 Rockland County veterans honored with Buffalo Soldier awards

2 Rockland County veterans honored
2 Rockland County veterans honored 02:34

NEW YORK - As part of our Black History Month coverage, we're spotlighting the Buffalo Soldiers. 

In Rockland County Wednesday, there was an award ceremony continued to pay tribute to their rich legacy. 

It's a shadow that military veterans Grady Anderson and James Epps say they're honored to walk in, and one they want to shine a brighter light on. 

"Makes you proud to be an American," Anderson said. 

After impressive military careers, the two Rockland County men were celebrated Wednesday. Anderson, 84, received the Lifetime Achievement Buffalo Soldier Award. Epps, 89, received the Buffalo Soldier Award. 

"I feel elated. It's an honor to be recognized while you're still here," Anderson said. 

"I feel good, very good, and I am proud to be a Buffalo Soldier," Epps said. 

The awards are given annually to outstanding African-American veterans living in Rockland County, and are named after the soldiers of the 10th cavalry regiment, organized as an all-Black unit in 1866 after the Civil War. 

"The first Black soldiers to make a career out of serving in the military. Prior to that, if Blacks would join the military, they only could serve, essentially, during a time of crisis or time of war," Cale Carter, director of exhibitions at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum said. 

Historians say Buffalo Soldiers should always be remembered as trailblazers, not just for what they did during battle but also for their achievements at home. 

"Their legacy still impacts us," Carter said. 

Some helped their families climb socioeconomic ladders. Others went to college. Allen Allensworth even founded his own California town. 

Battling in conflicts for almost a century, these soldier earned their spots in history books for fighting Native Americans on the western frontier and in both world wars. 

Cale says they also had to battle conflicts internally, told to fight enemies who sometimes were mistreating people similar to how Black people were being oppressed.. 

"You're serving in a military where, ideally, you should be treated as an American citizen, but you're still dealing with Jim Crow laws," Carter said. 

The award ceremony serves as a symbol of the next generation attaching themselves to, and carrying on, a legacy that won't ever be forgotten. 

Anderson and Epps joined the armed services in the 1950s. After leaving, they both went on to live their lives as civilians in Rockland County, raising kids. They both are grandfathers now. 

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