Exhibit Honors Blacks in U.S. Army; Photos Trace Service of African-Americans from Colonial Conflicts to Now

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

When Leroy Yeartie joined the Army back in 1981, he had just finished high school and wasn't really sure what to do with his life.

He left the military after six years, planning to pursue a law-enforcement career. Then came Sept. 11, 2001.

"I saw the need to go back in," said Yeartie, who is based in Jacksonville, where he's responsible for training Army reservists. "It made me feel ashamed, sitting on the sofa watching the country go through this."

Yeartie rejoined in 2003, rising in rank to sergeant first class.

Then, while working on a dock in Kuwait, Yeartie saw a falling expansion bridge about to crush two soldiers. As he pushed them out of the way, he injured his knee and neck. He was told his military career was over. Two years of physical therapy later, he's still in uniform, still in the Army.

The service of Yeartie, an African-American, is the type of thing the Army will focus on as it brings its traveling photo exhibit "A Legacy of Service: African-Americans in the U.S. Army" to Jacksonville this week.

The exhibit traces the involvement of black soldiers in conflicts from Colonial America to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It focuses on African-American pioneers, women and Medal of Honor recipients.

The exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Admission is free.

The display started its national tour last week in Columbia, S.C. When it leaves Jacksonville, it will head to Baltimore and Baton Rouge, La.

Along the way, the Army will stop by local middle and high schools and offer a curriculum package to educators.

While the school visits are seen as a way of helping recruiting efforts, the display is more about looking to the past.

"We want to be able to share the armed soldiers' stories," said Sonya Lewis, a spokeswoman for the exhibit. …