County honors Kenneth Mercer to launch Black History Month


County Executive Ed Day on Thursday, February 4 presented the 2016 Buffalo Soldier Award to Village of Spring Valley resident and former United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kenneth Mercer.

“Kenneth Mercer embodies the American spirit and dedication to service, which is clearly evident through his lifelong commitment to family, community, and our armed services,” said County Executive Day. “Awards like this are important because they allow us to recognize those who have served our nation at home and abroad sacrificing to preserve our way of life. We thank Kenneth for his bravery and for his continued service to our residents.”

Mercer, 67, joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and served until 1970, when he was honorably discharged. He fought in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, serving in both Marine Corps divisions (first and third) with 1st Battalion 27th and 1st Battalion 9th. (nicknamed “The Walking Dead” by Ho Chi Minh) These two units were bestowed the Marine Corps’ three highest combat awards: the Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Mercer was among the first generation of African-Americans allowed to join the ranks of the Marine Corps.

Mercer relocated to Rockland County from the Bronx in 1990. Over the past 26 years, he has worked extensively with the Rockland County Human Rights Commission to improve relationships between the many and varied ethnic groups within our community. Under the stewardship of Dr. Stella Marrs, he has served as an annual presenter during Black History Month events at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multipurpose Center in Spring Valley. Mercer has also delivered remarks at Rockland County’s Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education on the relationship between Blacks and Jews.

On numerous occasions, Mercer participated in the visiting reader program in the elementary schools of the East Ramapo Central School District. He has also served as a judge of the military oratory scholarship program for high school students in Rockland County. Mercer’s work for the betterment of Rockland County has been nationally recognized; his life’s work was read into the record of the 108th Congress of the United States.

While living in Rockland County, Mercer has served as an advisor to the distinguished scholar Dr. Edmund W. Gordon on the rebuilding of the CEJJES Institute in Pomona. At present, Mercer works with the Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow.

Said Day, “Mr. Mercer works each day to advance civil and human rights in Rockland County. Kenneth heard the words of Dr. King decades ago, and carries them in his heart and his head. He loves Rockland County and works every day to make it better for all.”

The Buffalo Soldier Award is presented annually to an outstanding African-American veteran who resides in Rockland County. “Buffalo Soldier” is the nickname first given to members of African-American cavalry regiments (largely, the Tenth Cavalry Regiment) of the U.S. Army who served in the western United States from 1867 to 1896, noted for their courage and discipline. The Tenth Cavalry also served in World War I, World War II and in Vietnam.

A panel of past Buffalo Soldier honorees helped select Kenneth Mercer for this year’s award.

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