Former Buffalo Soldier, 90, receives honors on birthday
Albert Curley, Junction City, third from left, poses for a picture with his Family June 8 at Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park, Junction City. Curley, who celebrated his 90th birthday June 8, is one of the few remaining Buffalo Soldiers.
Story by: Chase Jordan, DAILY UNION
Retired 1st Sgt. Albert Curley has many memories of his involvement with the "Buffalo Soldiers."
On June 8, Curley enjoyed reaching a special milestone with his Family and other community leaders.
The Curleys, a Family that spans four generations, gathered at Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park, Junction City, for a celebration 10 years short of a century.
For his 90th birthday, Curley was recognized by the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau for his dedication to establish the monument, for his accomplishments in the U.S. Army and for his involvement with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Association.
The name Buffalo Soldiers was given to the black union Soldiers by the Cheyenne warriors out of respect because the buffalo was hard to kill.
Curley had 28 years of service in the U.S. Army and served in Italy, Japan, Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He retired in 1969 at Fort Riley.
Curley said it was an honor for him to be recognized in front of the black cavalry monument, which took years to construct. The memorial was completed in 2000 after $400,000 was raised.
"It's an honor for me to be recognized in my old age and for people to turn out," Curley said.
Connie Hall, Geary County CVB executive director, said it was an appropriate celebration since he helped establish the memorial.
"He's not only a community icon, but he's respected in the state and nationally," Hall said.
The CVB worked with a Buffalo Soldiers' committee from the beginning to build the monument.
"We got to know them not just as community members, but as Family," she said. "Mr. Curley is Family."
He was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Consuelo Curley, and his son, Albert Curley II, who attended with his wife, Susan. Curley II said it was a wonderful celebration, and he was glad the city took an interest in the history and heritage of the Buffalo Soldiers. Like many others, he grew up in the all-black area near the memorial close to the segregated quarters of the Soldiers.
"These Soldiers were forgotten for so long, and for them to get together with the city and get something like this done and to convert the park into a Buffalo Soldier Memorial is a great accomplishment," he said.
Geary County Undersheriff Tony Wolf and other community members like retired Lt. Gen. Richard J. Seitz attended.
"I think it's important that we take time to recognize on his birthday all he's done for the U.S. and this community," Seitz said.
Vice Mayor Jim Sands said it was history.
"This is a wonderful thing to recognize him with a ceremony like this," Sands said. "He's totally honorable of all of this."
Florence Whitebread, Geary County commissioner, took part in the celebration on behalf of the Geary County Commission.
"I think it's an appropriate celebration for someone (who) turned 90 years old and has been a stabilizing person to get this monument erected," she said.
Curley's grandson, Albert Curley III, travelled from California with his wife, Nicole, and daughter, Ava, for the birthday celebration. He said it was the first time the elder Curley has seen his great-granddaughter.
"It's absolutely amazing. We're so proud to have him in our Family," Curley III said.
To spread awareness about his accomplishments, he set up a Facebook page for his grandfather, who is one of the few remaining Buffalo Soldiers.
"For me, it was so important to have all the generations see what he did," Curley III said. "To have the legacy fade away and the youth not know about it is somewhat of a challenge. His service is incredible and something that can't be replicated."