This Memorial Day we should remember the African Americans who have fought on the frontlines, including in the war against COVID-19

May 21, 2020

By William S. Gooden

Milwaukee Health Services, Inc., 2555 N. MLK Dr., is providing COVID-19 testing and other select services during this time.

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. In other words, the purpose of Memorial Day is to pay tribute to veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. We spend time remembering those who lost their lives and could not come home, reflecting on their service and why we have the luxury and freedom that we enjoy today.

Traditionally, this holiday is reserved for those who fought for our country in foreign wars. However, this year I think we could add a new type of soldier to honor. It is the soldier who is fighting a war currently, right here on our own home soil, the COVID-19 front line worker. The COVID-19 virus is a foreign invader that has ravaged multiple countries causing death by the thousands wherever it goes. Here in the U.S., it has hit many African American communities the hardest, with many of the fatalities coming in urban areas. Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city, with about 600,000 people, and is home to the state’s largest minority population. As of 2018, black people accounted for about 38 percent of the city’s population, with about 35 percent white and 20 percent Hispanic. About half of Wisconsin’s deaths and total cases were in Milwaukee. About 28 percent of those who have died from the coronavirus in Milwaukee County were black. Many of those deaths came from the inner city, as the black community started looking for treatment and testing and have turned to the local community health clinics. Many of the nurses, lab technicians and doctors who are currently on the front lines also are people of color.

Outreach Community Health Centers, 210 W. Capitol Dr., are also providing COVID-19 testing.

While soldiers who fought in wars donned camouflage, bullet-proof vests, and fought with guns, our doctors and nurses have donned smocks and masks, and fought the virus with medical skill and human kindness. Like soldiers going off to war, they have separated themselves from their families to protect them and serve their loved ones and others whom they have never met. They are fighting for us so that we can return to our carefree lives and enjoy the things that we are use to once more. Many are still going to their jobs at our community clinics and are still providing much-needed medical services in our comunity, including pharmacy and dental services as well as COVID-19 testing.

Progressive Community Health Centers, 3522 W.
Lisbon Ave., are still providing emergency dental care for the community.

Sadly, there are those black nurses, techs, and doctors who have served on the frontlines against this virus and have lost their lives. This Memorial Day we should reflect and honor those men and women of color who selflessly sacrificed for us, to protect us from this war fought in our hospitals and clinics, along with those who fought in foreign wars.

If you know nurses, doctors, orderlies, and technicians of color, or know of families of care workers who have lost their lives and who live in your neighborhood, think about doing something for them. Bake them a dish, post signs in your front yard thanking them, organize a motorcade through the neighborhood, or just give them a call and lend them an ear.