Walter Dowdy Jr. of Sun City Center wanted to be a doctor, but when his best friends enlisted in the Army, he decided to join them.
“At the time, I had just finished high school and some buddies of mine and I had all planned to be doctors,” Dowdy Jr. said. “When we heard about being enlisted in the military, we thought we could serve our country and then be in the reserves.”
They enlisted in 1948.
Dowdy Jr. ended up serving in the Korean War. He received the Purple Heart Medal for his service.
“When I was serving, I knew I would get hurt, but I also knew that I wouldn’t die,” Dowdy Jr. said. “I carried a small Bible in my pocket and I knew the good Lord would protect me. He has always protected me.”
Dowdy and his friends are heroes, but they were also characterized as Buffalo Soldiers.
“I didn’t realize I was a Buffalo Soldier until 2008,” Dowdy said. “I was living in Tennessee and I attended a reunion of the 24th Infantry Regiment. At the reunion, a friend of mine asked me if I knew that in 1950 the Army had put a freeze on Black officers. I left the table, went into the men’s room and I cried like a baby because I now knew why I could never be an officer.”
Buffalo Soldiers were African American soldiers who mainly served on the Western frontier following the American Civil War.
One theory claims the nickname arose because the soldiers’ dark, curly hair resembled the fur of a buffalo. Another assumption is the soldiers fought so valiantly and fiercely that the Indians revered them as they did the mighty buffalo (www.history.com).
Whatever the reason may be, the name stuck, and African American regiments formed in 1866, including the 24th and 25th Infantries, became known as Buffalo Soldiers.
In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, eliminating racial segregation in America’s armed forces. The last all-Black units were disbanded during the 1950s.
Buffalo soldiers had the lowest military desertion and court-martial rates of their time. Many won the Congressional Medal of Honor, an award presented in recognition of combat valor that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
“I have had a great life and I’ve had some really good jobs,” Dowdy Jr. said. “I have traveled all over this world and the only places I haven’t been to is Antarctica and Australia. I was able to accomplish all of this because I live by faith.”