In honor of Black History Month, the Paramount Veterans Network, in partnership with Veterans in Media and Entertainment (VME), kicked-off their first letter-writing event of 2023 in support of the historic 369th Harlem Hellfighters Regiment. Karen Kraft, Army Veteran and Board Chair of VME, and Maj Michael O’Hagan, Public Affairs Officer and Air National Guard, gave opening remarks for the event.
Our guest speaker, Lt. Col Pete Fish from the 369th Sustainment Brigade delivered a brief history of the Harlem Hellfighters, from their start as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment to present day. The 369th Regiment, more commonly known as the Harlem Hellfighters, primarily consisted of African American men, but also included men from Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, and white Americans. They were the first African American infantry to fight in World War I. This Regiment spent the most time on the frontlines, fighting 191 days and causing them to suffer the most losses. They fought against racism abroad and at home where some members lost their lives in lynchings during the 1919 "Red Summer". This courageous and highly decorated unit earned fame all over the world because of their bravery. They are even credited for introducing the French to Jazz.
After the presentation of the photographic historical timeline, Lt. Col Fish fielded questions from the audience. When asked where one can learn more about the Harlem Hellfighters, the audience was directed to check out the books Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and A More Unbending Battle by Peter Nelson. Additional information can be found on YouTube.
In addition to Lt. Col Fish, we had the benefit of three more soldiers from the Harlem Hellfighters: US Army National Guard’s Col Richard Goldenberg, Maj Michael McLean, and Staff Sgt Sebastian Rothwyn, who are currently deployed in Kuwait – supporting all logistics for the forces in the Middle East. This gave the attendees a chance to hear from Army soldiers and learn more about what it is like to serve in a regiment with an extraordinary and impactful lineage.
“What an inspiring event with the Harlem Hellfighters! Having the opportunity to learn about the history of this storied and beyond impressive brigade was a moment that left me in awe and wanting to know more. Looking forward to writing some more letters to help this unit connect with “home” while away. Thank you for your service,” says Shannon Guarascio of Paramount Global.
“The purpose of the Military Letters Appreciation campaign is to connect the entertainment industry with the military serving today, and especially with those units who are currently deployed,” said Karen Kraft of VME. “Over 40% of the our troops deployed around the world each year are called up from the Reserve or National Guard like the Harlem Hellfighters. These troops are your work colleagues, neighbors, and friends…and some are also VME members like aspiring filmmaker Staff Sergeant Sebastian Rothwyn who is with the Harlem Hellfighters in Kuwait, and voice-over artist Maj Michael O’Hagan who is on assignment in Singapore.”
“We know first-hand how much these men and women in uniform enjoy receiving these letters and especially from people in the entertainment community — it creates a real sense of genuine connection and heartfelt appreciation,” Kraft continued.
“Finally, a special thanks to EVP Rich Jones, a former Army Ranger who is now an executive, for founding and leading the Paramount Veterans Network, and to the ever-dynamic leadership of his right hand, Betty Diaz. When it comes to taking care of veterans from internships, guest-speaking classes, and events like this one — as we say in the military Paramount Veterans Network “Leads the Way!,” said Army Veteran, Karen Kraft of VME
“This was an impressive and accurate history lesson for Black History Month. Loved learning that Rafael Hernandez, a famous composer from my family’s hometown, was a Harlem Hellfighter!” said Frances Cardona-Espinal of Paramount Global.