President Harry Truman established equal opportunity and treatment in the U.S. military branches with an executive order in 1948, but service members of color had been fighting for decades before that.
(RELATED: First Black Graduate of Naval Academy Dies)
History books record service members of color, including African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics, and women serving in some capacity for the military since the Revolutionary War.
Memorial Day often marks the unofficial start of summer for Americans, but it’s more importantly a day to remember our fallen troops.
In honor of the holiday, we’ve assembled a small collection of just a few extraordinary servicemen and women and their accomplishments.
Photos are provided courtesy of the Department of Defense.
A son of immigrant parents, 2nd Lt. Darius Chen is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a medical officer in the Army. Chen is a first-generation Asian-American who says his parents instilled within him a strong sense of American pride since he was young. In 2011, Asians comprised about 4 percent of active-duty members in the Army.(DoD/Sgt. Marc Loi)
Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson was the first African-American woman to achieve major general rank in the U.S. Army Reserve in 2011. As a civilian, Anderson works as a clerk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. In 2011, African-Americans comprised about 22 percent of the Army Reserve.(Courtesy of Department of Defense)
A native of Mexico City, Lt. Col. Enrique De La Paz immigrated to the U.S. in 1972. De La Paz serves as an officer for the Army's 1st Infantry Division. Hispanics make up about 11 percent of active-duty members in the Army.(DoD/Sgt. Raymond Quintanilla)
At the time of his retirement earlier this year, Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers was the Air Force's longest serving airman and the longest serving African-American service member in the Department of Defense. Flowers was in service for almost 47 years. About 14 percent of the Air Force's active-duty members are African-American.(DoD)
Army Gen. George Joulwan, who retired in 1997, established the first strategic policy for U.S. military engagement in Africa. Joulwan, who is Arab-American, served as Commander in Chief for the U.S. European Command (CINCEUR) and as the 11th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). As SACEUR, Joulwan was the first to serve as every level in the Alliance. There are only about 3,500 active-duty Arab-Americans in the military.(DoD/Russell F. Roederer)
Brig. Gen. Joseph Medina was one of the first Hispanics to have achieved brigadier general rank in the Marine Corps. In 2003, Medina headed Expeditionary Strike Group Three in Iraq, becoming the first Marine to head a Naval flotilla. As of 2011, Hispanics made up about 12 percent of the Marine Corps active-duty personnel.(DoD)
In March 2012, Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson was tapped to take over as deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, becoming the Army's first female to serve in such a position. Females make up about 14 percent of active-duty members in the Army.(DoD/William C. Bunce)
Army Gen. William Ward was the first commander of U.S. Army's Africa Command. He served in that position from October 2007 to March 2011. About one-fifth of active-duty service members in the Army are black.(DoD)
Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger became the Air Force's first female four-star general in March 2012. Wolfenbarger is just one of four female lieutenant generals in Air Force, and had become the branch's highest-ranking woman in 2010. Women make up about 19 percent of active-duty members in the Air Force.(DoD/Michael Pausic)
Rear Adm. Eleanor Valentin became the first female Director of the Medical Service Corps for the U.S. Navy in 2009. Valentin, a Filipino-American, was also the first minority Medical Service Corps officer to obtain flag rank. Active-duty females comprise about 16 percent of the branch.(DoD)