In honor of Black History Month, the Purple Heart Foundation wanted to highlight the incredible and honorable service of Colin Powell, a United States statesman and a retired Four-Star General in the United States Army. On April 5, 1937 in Harlem, New York, Colin Powell was born to two Jamaican immigrants. Growing up and attending high school in the Bronx, Powell did not really have any set plans for his future. Powell began his college career at City College of New York. He studied geology, still unsure of what he wanted to do in life, and where he saw himself. Little did he know, City College was actually where he would find his calling. Colin Powell joined City College’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), where he quickly became his unit’s commander. This experience gave him the structure and life direction he had been missing, and it set him up to have an extremely successful and lengthy military career.
Colin Powell’s military career is one of great honor. He served in Vietnam, and during his first tour was awarded a Purple Heart, and later a Bronze Star. During his second tour of duty and despite injuries sustained during a helicopter crash, Powell was able to rescue fellow soldiers from the burning helicopter. This incident resulted in him becoming a recipient for the Soldier’s Medal. In fact, Powell has received 11 military decorations.
Powell went on to further his education, receiving an MBA at George Washington University. This brought him to a White House fellowship, and an assignment to Office of Management and Budget in 1972. The year after his fellowship, Colonel Powell served a tour of duty in Korea. He then landed a job a the Pentagon. Powell was later promoted to Brigadier General and commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. Powell acted as an assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy during the Carter Administration. He was once again promoted, this time to Major General. Additionally, Powell assisted Frank Carlucci at the Department of Defense during the time of the transition from the Carter Administration to the Reagan Administration. Later he served as Senior Military Aide to Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger. Then, in 1987 Colin Powell became the National Security Adviser, and remained in that position until the end of the Reagan Administration.
As if all of this is not impressive enough, in 1989 President George H. W. Bush appointed General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not only is this post the highest military position in the Department of Defense, Powell was also the first African-American officer to receive such distinction.
After Powell retired from the Army in 1993 his service did not stop. Only a short year later he joined with former President Jimmy Carter on a successful peacekeeping expedition to Haiti. It does not stop there, Powell then published an autobiography and went on to becoming a the chairman of a nonprofit organization. Then, in 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell as the Secretary of State. At the time Powell was appointed to this position, this was the highest rank in civilian government that had ever been held by an African-American.
A young boy, once lost without plans for the future or an idea of life direction developed into a hero, leader and an inspiration. Colin Powell was not given any advances or special treatment as he began his military career, it was who he was. He was committed and passionate about our country and specifically his service to our country. It is men and women with those shared qualities that serve this country and keep us safe. Here at the Purple Heart Foundation, we are committed to honoring all of our heroes. It is our goal to make the transformation from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform, Show your support by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve.