Georgia Eaves, commander of the D.C. chapter of the National Association of Black American Veterans, greets Antoinette Scott, a former member of the D.C. National Guard who received a Purple Heart, during a prayer breakfast at the Springfield Baptist Church in Northwest on Nov. 6.
Georgia Eaves, commander of the D.C. chapter of the National Association of Black American Veterans, greets Antoinette Scott, a former member of the D.C. National Guard who received a Purple Heart, during a prayer breakfast at the Springfield Baptist Church in Northwest on Nov. 6.

Antoinette Scott didn’t need to wear a black beret to feel part of a new D.C. veterans group.

And the wife and mother didn’t have to be reminded of the irony of how African-Americans have proudly served in the military and died for their country in all the major wars, only to return home and be subjected to racism from people in country they swore to defend.

“I drove a five-ton truck in the 547 Transportation that was part of the D.C. National Guard,” Scott said. “I was injured from an explosion. I had a lot of surgery. There was a lot that I had to do physically, but there was nothing that compared to the mental healing and getting back to my routine as a wife and mother.”

Scott, a Purple Heart recipient, shared her story with local war veterans Sunday during a prayer breakfast at the Springfield Baptist Church in Northwest to commemorate Veterans Day on Nov. 11 and to mark the start of the D.C. chapter of the National Association of Black American Veterans (NABVETS).

Richard Korenegay, national commander of NABVETS, said in addition to obtaining a range of services, veterans also need support and encouragement from their peers.

“This group is not just for veterans, but it is composed of veterans and this allows us to do things for veterans in the community,” he said.

The breakfast was one of several military-based events in the region ahead of Veterans Day. On Saturday, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and Gloria L. Brown Burnett, director of the county’s Department of Social Services, welcomed several hundred veterans to the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex for the 6th annual Veterans Stand Down and Homeless Resource Day.

While veterans often struggled with accessing needed services because of red tape, service members were able Saturday to fill out forms to obtain dental services, legal support, mental health counseling and education assistance from the Veterans Administration and Department of Social Services.

And on Sunday, The Rev. Carl Q. Hickerson, pastor of the Springfield Baptist Church, welcomed the veterans to his church. He said before he was a pastor, he was an Army sergeant in an Air Defense Artillery Unit stationed in Germany and there were days when he wondered if would be coming home.

“As a veteran I see the relationship between my faith and my service to this country,” Hickerson said. “At the core of it all, I had to be ready at any given time to face danger and I have a deep emotional connection to those who are doing now what I was prepared to do.”

Though the veterans of Operation Desert Storm, Desert Shield and current conflicts couldn’t give specifics of their responsibilities because they are classified, some guest speakers talked about African-American soldiers’ roles in past wars.

“I was qualified to jump out of a plane,” said Georgia Eaves, commander of NABVETS’ D.C. chapter, who retired as an Army captain. “I was part of a quartermaster unity and I supplied those on the front lines.”

Eaves came over to Scott’s table and gave her a big hug. Despite her own tale of courage, Eaves said she has the upmost respect for Scott.

“She received the Purple Heart,” she said. “We need to support all of our veterans.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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