As Black History Month comes around, we are reminded of the brave, heroic and enduring acts of the many black heroes of our past and present. We recognize names like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman, with the list going on and on. Acknowledging these people and understanding the struggles they endured and the obstacles they had to overcome to create a better life for themselves and others is crucial to allowing us to continue to grow as people and as a nation.
While none of the names listed above fought for our country as a soldier, their actions embodied the core character traits of the Medal of Honor, and they are prime examples of how one can apply patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice and commitment to our everyday lives.
Honoring Tennessean and Medal of Honor Recipient George Jordan
George Jordan was born into slavery in 1847 in Williamson County, in central Tennessee. In 1866, just after the Civil War ended, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, 38th Infantry Regiment. The Army had established a cavalry and infantry regiment of African American soldiers. Their main tasks were to help control the Native Americans of the Plains and protect settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and railroad crews along the Western front. Eventually he was transferred to the 9th Cavalry Regiment, where he spent the majority of his 30-year military career.
While Jordan was illiterate when he entered the service, he was determined to serve his country to his highest ability and taught himself to read and write during his early years as a soldier. By 1879, he rose in rank to Sergeant because of his solid character and dedication to the U.S. Army.
Overcoming The Impossible
In May 1881, at Fort Tularosa, New Mexico, in hostile Apache territory, Jordan became a hero for the U.S. military. While commanding a detachment of 25 men known as “The Buffalo Soldiers,” Jordan fought off an unexpected attack on the town by a force of more than 100 Apaches. Jordan fearlessly led his men, repelling the attacks and succeeding without a single casualty.
Just three months later, on August 12, 1881, Jordan faced and overcame another seemingly impossible situation. The Medal of Honor Citation reads:
“At Carrizo Canyon, N. Mex., while commanding the right of a detachment of 19 men, he stubbornly held his ground in an extremely exposed position and gallantly forced back a much superior number of the enemy, preventing them from surrounding the command.”
Enduring Injustices After the War
By the time of his retirement in 1896 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, Jordan had served 10 years as first sergeant of a veteran troop renowned for its performance against the Apache and Sioux. In his retirement, Jordan joined other Buffalo Soldier veterans in nearby Crawford, Nebraska to become a successful land owner.
Unfortunately, however, despite his position as a decorated war veteran and landowner, he still fell victim to the inequalities of his time. After countless attempts to vote, his efforts bore little fruit. The greatest injustice was in the autumn of 1904 when his health declined dramatically. He was denied admission to the Fort Robinson’s hospital and was told to try the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C. After being denied proper medical care, he died on October 24h, with the post chaplain officially complaining that Jordan “died for the want of proper attention.”
Receiving the Honor Jordan Deserved
Jordan was buried in the Fort Robinson cemetery, his funeral conducted with full honors and attended by most of the post’s personnel, a bittersweet ending to the story of an exemplary “Buffalo Soldier.” Due to the appalling circumstances surrounding his death, changes were made to the healthcare discrimination policy allowing his name and legacy as a Buffalo Soldier and as a Medal of Honor recipient live on. During WWII, an Army facility was named after him, Camp George Jordan in Seattle, Washington. In 1999, the Army’s 6th Recruiting Brigade in North Las Vegas, Nevada named their new headquarters building after Sergeant George Jordan.