MILFORD, Mass. – The Massachusetts National Guard showcased 375 years of diversity by opening an exhibit at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., April 13, 2012.
The exhibit, “Breaking Barriers,” is a series of displays with photos and historical vignettes that mark milestones in the careers of Soldiers and Airmen whose achievements have been recognized by the Guard as a first for minority interest group.
Brig Gen. Paul G. Smith, Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Massachusetts National Guard, described the exhibit saying, “It signifies the courage and sacrifice of our Soldiers and Airmen who have pried open doors that were closed to them.”
The Massachusetts National Guard’s Community Outreach Program created the exhibit to feature the history of diversity in the Massachusetts Militia, as well as the current and past demographics of the Massachusetts National Guard.
State Equal Employment Manager, Mr. Thomas Desmond said, “We draw our membership from our local communities and our goal is to resemble the demographics of those communities as closely as possible.”
The exhibit was a collaborative effort between the Community Outreach Program and National Guard historian, retired Army Brig. Gen. (MA) Leonid Kondratiuk.
“Colonial laws in the 1700s excluded Blacks and Indians from military service. However, local militia captains ignored the law and enrolled Blacks and Indians in their companies. There were a number of Black militiamen at Concord and Lexington. The Stockbridge Indians of Western Massachusetts served in the militia and marched on April 19, 1775, said Kondratiuk.
The Peabody Essex Museum was chosen for the exhibit because of its proximity to Salem Common, the site of the Massachusetts National Guard’s First Muster in 1637.
The purpose of the community outreach program is to establish relations within all of our diverse communities here in Massachusetts. By developing these inroads it is our intention to increase the public’s knowledge of the Guard. The ultimate goal is two-fold: The Massachusetts National Guard develops a better understanding of our communities and are able to ensure proper representation of all demographics in our organization.
Today the Guard finds strength in diversity. The Massachusetts National Guard is comprised of more than 8,500 members of many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds that together provide a force that is fully capable of responding to local, state and national emergencies and when neeeded, can also deploy world-wide in support of the Department of Defense.