Black History Month provides the opportunity for us to be curious, to look around, and to learn more about the contributions made by African-Americans to our country.

I continue to discover that our military legacy is rich, though we often do not know “the rest of the story.” It is important to understand how we came to our current station in American society and how far we have come. This is especially true for officers of color.

Last year, while researching the anniversary of President Truman’s July 1948 Executive Order (E.O.) 9981 directing the desegregation of the armed forces, I discovered the legacy of the first two black officer graduates of the U.S. Army War College. Col. Frederic Davison and Col. Otho van Exel hold that distinction with the Class of 1963. Davison became the first black officer in the Regular Army promoted to major general and to command an Army division (8th Infantry Division). He culminated his service as the commanding general of the Military District of Washington. Van Exel held four battalion and higher-level commands in the New York Army National Guard and received a brevet promotion to brigadier general upon his retirement.