(One of the great faults of humanity is to believe that its individual perceptions represent the truth. This belief, which in reality is often a lie, is based on selfishness, narcissism and the mistaken belief that one is superior to the other. I grew up in the African American community of Athens. Even then some thought it was “Boogertown” and some now think it is riddled with drugs, violence and all kinds of negative things But looking back on that Veterans Day week, Growing up I never saw “Boogertown” or drugs and violence, I only saw a community of greatness .
At almost every corner I saw heroes.
I saw a Tuskegee Airman every time Leroy Murray came home. Charlie King was a Buffalo Soldier in the 25th Infantry Regiment. Tommie Townsend lived downstairs from me and was a Marine from Montford Point. Wilmer Harris won a purple heart with the 761st Tank Battalion, called the best black tank battalion of World War II, a moniker the 761st rejected, settling instead for the title “best tank battalion in the world”. Second World War “. Blendor Crooks was a Buffalo Soldier. who fought in Korea. Frank Payne fought in World War II and in Korea.
Even today, when I look around me, I see men and women who have given everything for a country that has not always given in return. Egbert Peoples Jr., ninety-two, fought with the 25th Infantry Regiment in World War II; Billy King earned two bronze stars in Vietnam; Walter Benford got a Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters – essentially three Purple Hearts – in the same war; Charles Malone served in the US Marines in Vietnam.
These men were and carry on a legacy passed on to them by men who served in the 110th and 111th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, men like Seymore Turner, who served with the 3rd Regiment of Alabama infantry in the Spanish American Army. The war, and men like Cpl. Harmie Mason, who served with the 366th Infantry Regiment during World War I.)
” Gas ! Gas ! shouted a soldier in an adjacent trench.
Two hundred yards away, Harmie Mason heard the alarm and slipped his mask from its holder. As he put it on his face, he slipped from his grip and fell to the muddy ground. Before hastily retrieving it, he inhaled a puff of deadly gas.
Harmie Mason was born in 1896 in County Limestone. He was the son of Sallie Hammond and stepson of Green Hammond, and like most colored boys in Alabama at the turn of the century, his occupation was farmhand. His father-in-law farmed about 40 acres of land, not the 40 acres and a mule promised to slaves at the end of the Civil War, but land he purchased from a local farmer. Throughout its growing years, the family lived in the community of Slough near present-day Huntsville-Brownsferry and Lucas Ferry Road intersection.
A bright boy who took education seriously, he attended Oak Grove Separate School, sometimes walking 5 miles to school in Cowford Road. There, with his sister Henrietta, he learned what was then called his ABC.
A burly teenager who was nearly 6 feet tall, he could work as long and as hard as any man in the hot Alabama sun.
On April 6, 1917, when Harmie was 21, the United States declared war on Germany, triggering the largest American military mobilization to date. The US Army, numbering just over 200,000 men, grew by drafting men into the divisions of the National Army.
Ten days after turning 21, Harmie received mobilization orders to report to Camp Dodge, Iowa. He presented himself for mobilization in early October 1917, and by late October of that year he was among 2,600 colored inductees from Alabama, who, along with men from Iowa and the Illinois, were assembled to form the 366th Infantry Regiment.
The 366th was a color unit that served with distinction in the First World War. The unit was one of the outstanding black units with all of its own officers and staff.
Harmie and the other men of the 366th trained at Camp Dodge until departing by train in early 1918 for eventual deployment and combat in France as part of the 92nd Infantry Division. The division had been organized at Camp Funston, Kansas, in October 1917 and included colored men from across the United States.
Before leaving for France, the 92nd was given the name “Buffalo Soldiers” in honor of the four regiments of Buffalo Soldiers who fought on the American plains in the late 19th century. These four regiments were named Buffalo Soldiers by the Comanches or Cheyenne as a mark of respect due to their tenacity and ability to fight.
Harmie and the 366th arrived with the 92nd in France and were deployed to the front lines in August 1918. There they won participation in three battles: St. Die, Meuse-Argonne and Marbach.
Cpl. Harmie Mason, Company E. 366th Infantry, was honorably discharged March 22, 1919.