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Our Stories Must Be Included in History

Wendy Gladney

Upland, CA

The Korean War, also known as the Forgotten War, was fought between North and South Korea during the early
1950’s. World War II ended just five years before the Korean War and it was originally thought that the United
States would stay out of this one, but President Truman and others thought differently. I do not remember
hearing much about this war and the contributions of Black Americans. Although one of my uncles fought in this
war it was never a discussion around the dining room table. I was born in 1961 and by then everyone was talking
about the Vietnam War, which I also had another uncle who fought in this war. Thankfully, more war movies are
including the stories about the contributions of Black Americans. One such story is told in the movie Devotion
starring Jonathan Majors who plays the Navy’s first Black aviator Jesse Brown. You might be more familiar with
Jonathan Majors, from his role in the movie, “The Harder They Fall,” where he starred along with Idris Elba.
Devotion is directed by Black director JD Dillard and the movie has a special meaning for him because 40 years
after Jesse earned his wings in the US Navy, Dillard’s father earned his Navy wings and ultimately became the
second Black member of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels squadron.
Jesse Brown’s story is one of growing up as the son of a sharecropper in Mississippi and overcoming poverty and
segregation in the South while as a young boy having a dream to become a pilot. The movie takes place during
the Korean War and shares the untold story about the relationship and friendship of two men, Thomas Hudner
(white) and Jesse Brown. Relationships can be tough even in the best of circumstances. When we think about
what the climate was like in our country during the 1950’s with racism, segregation, and hate (sadly we are
dealing with some of these same issues today), it is nice to see an example of brotherly love and concern that
crosses the color barrier. Together they became the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen, they were awarded the
Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and an
Air Medal, just to mention a few. Both of these elite Navy fighter pilots were credited with changing the course
of the Korean War because of their success in one of the most dangerous missions of the war.
The movie also showed Jesse as a family man, and I appreciated the relationship he had with his devoted wife
Daisy played by Christina Jackson. Though he was a great patriot he was adversely affected by the racist and
hurtful things that were said and done to him while in the military. There was a scene in the movie that really
brought it home for me, when a Black gentleman of lower rank presented Jesse with a watch from the other
Black soldiers. On the back of the watch was the inscription, “Above All Others.” This message could have so
many different meanings, but what I took away from it was that no matter what his race he stood above the
crowd. Unfortunately, during a mission Jesse died due to wounds from his plane being shot down. Although his
life was cut short, Jesse accomplished much and died a hero, not just for Blacks, but for all Americans. I think all
our veterans and active military men and women are heroes and I appreciate their service and commitment to
keeping us safe from foreign and domestic enemies.
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on.

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