Rockland County Executive Ed Day presented Rev. Louis Sanders with the county’s 21st Annual Buffalo Solider Award on Tuesday. Rev. Sanders, a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force Chaplaincy, is a Sparkill resident.
Day described the 2014 honoree as a “man of firsts.”
“He’s devoted his life, (but) this isn’t only about service to country and Army,” said Day. “This is about helping our nation grow, providing opportunities for both young and old and being a first.”
Day said Sanders had been an inspiration because of what he accomplished.
“Rev. Sanders’ service has been something we should all be proud of,” said Day. “It reflects highly on himself, on this country, and on the United States Air Force. His strength in breaking the color barrier has been documented many, many times.”
Sanders, now 70 years old, was the first African American teacher in Camden County High School in Camden, NC and the first African American male hired by the Tuckahoe School District in Eastchester where he taught social studies and was department chair. Sanders served during Desert Storm and spearheaded a project recording religious music and sending more than 1,000 tapes to troops.
Sanders said he was surprised to be chosen and said it was a privilege to be considered a Buffalo Soldier. He said their history was a story to be proud of.
“It certainly makes me extremely proud to be part of such a group. And of course not only to become a part but also to continue in my way and in the way of righteousness to fight against injustice wherever it may be,” he said.
Sanders thanked those who had supported him.
“And I hope that God will give me many more years to work in the vineyard to do all that I can to promote equality and justice not only in the military realm but wherever I may go that I can touch somebody’s life so that my living will not be in vain,” said Sanders.
For more than 30 years he has been the senior pastor of the St. Charles A.M.E. Zion Church in Sparkill and currently serves as the Sparkill Fire Department’s chaplain. In April he will receive an honorary doctorate from St. Thomas Aquinas College.
Sanders earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from North Carolina A & T State University, a Master’s of Science Degree from the City University of New York, Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and Chaplain’s Certification from the Air Force University and Chaplaincy School at Maxwell Air Force Base.
The Buffalo Soldier Award honors the African American soldiers who fought in the 10th Black Calvary Regiment during the Indian Wars. Native Americans gave the soldiers the nickname because they fought like buffalo and refused to give up even after being wounded.
The presentation begins Black History Month.
Editor's Note: Rev. Louis Sanders speaks about the importance of the award here.