Buffalo celebrates Black service members with historic monument dedication

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By Claretta Bellamy, NBC News

Visitors at the African America Veterans Monument in Buffalo, N.Y. (Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park)

For the first time in history, Black veterans are getting a monument to acknowledge their service and contributions in the U.S. military. 

The African American Veterans Monument was unveiled Saturday in Buffalo, New York, to honor Black veterans and active-duty military service members both past and present. The monument serves as a permanent marker recognizing the contributions of African Americans who served in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and the Coast Guard. 

Military members, veterans and city and state officials, including New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, gathered in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, the largest naval park in the country, for the unveiling ceremony. The event came two days after the anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the document issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, that set a date for the end of slavery. 

Designed by the late artist Jonathan Casey, the concrete monument is made up of 12 black pillars stretching 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The pillars are in chronological order marking the 12 wars Black soldiers served in: from the American Revolution in 1775 to the current war on terrorism. The spacing between pillars is also significant, as it represents the times of peace between one war and the next. 

Bellamy discusses the significance of this memorial.

Black veterans have contributed greatly to the Civil War, yet some point out the inequalities they experience compared to white veterans.

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