|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Office
Soldiers’ contributions to the nation don’t end on the battlefield, but
continue in their communities when they return to civilian life, said
the guest speaker at Fort McCoy’s Feb. 3 Black History Month observance.
Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, an associate professor of history at the
University of Wisconsin (UW)-Eau Claire, received her doctorate’s degree
in African American and Military History from Ohio University. Her
UW-Eau Claire students learn about World War II history, in part because
of informational support from the Fort McCoy History Center, she said.
Ducksworth-Lawton speaks to a Fort McCoy audience during a Black
History Month observance. (Photo by Allan
Originally from Louisiana, Ducksworth-Lawton came to Wisconsin via
“For my community, the military always has been a massively positive
influence,” she said. “Especially the impact of the leadership training
and how the effectiveness training in the military has led a number of
Soldiers to come back out into civilian life and positively impact
Ducksworth-Lawton used her research knowledge to illustrate to the
audience how Black veterans — indeed all veterans — impact their
communities after their military service is complete.
Military service traditionally has been a stepping stone for U.S.
citizens to gain passage to the middle class. Ducksworth-Lawton said
Soldiers bring back their military experience, such as leadership skills
and knowledge, to become leaders in their communities.
Following the Civil War, for example, Black veterans joined militias and
became part of the middle class. They used the money they earned from
military service to buy land, in effect, becoming long-term landowners
in the South, she said.
“Buffalo Soldiers who served in the military became more than just
Indian fighters,” she said. “They learned skills, such as diplomacy
mediating between the settlers and the Indians — sometimes even among
the settlers themselves. They learned how to advance and how to respond
to racial situations.”
Many Soldiers, including her father-in-law, a Korean War bronze-star
recipient, used military service to extend their reading and writing
skills or improve their education — up through about 1963 — and advanced
these skills in their communities, she said. When white citizens
wouldn’t support educational systems for minorities, they raised money
to build schools themselves.
Even today, Ducksworth-Lawton said she can see the effect of the
military on the student body at UW-Eau Claire. One in four students has
financial aid from the military, such as National Guard or Army Reserve
service. Of the 70 Black students, about half of them come from a
“Studies show that veterans have a higher rate of education,” she said.
“Their children also are more likely to attend college, as they see the
dedication their parents had.”
Blacks who served during Korea and World War II often were in the
forefront of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Ducksworth-Lawton
said. All of the deacons for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were enlisted
Korean War veterans, led by a master sergeant.
Black veterans also battled the Ku Klux Klan to keep Civil Rights
workers safe and advance their interests.
For more information about ethnic observances in the Fort McCoy
community, call the Equal Opportunity adviser 608-388-3246.