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    SFC Steele: Mississippi Trailblazer

    Remembering a Legacy

    Photo By Sgt. Taylor Cleveland | Damien Moody (left), grandson of Sgt. First Class Roja Steele Sr., a mechanic with...... read more read more

    HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI, UNITED STATES

    01.26.2023

    Story by Sgt. Taylor Cleveland 

    102d Public Affairs Detachment

    Mississippi is the home of the blues, good food, and hospitality. The state is the host of rich diversity and southern culture. Most importantly, there's a great sense of patriotism that rings throughout each county of Mississippi. In response to the call for patriotism following World War II, a man from Beaumont, Mississippi by the name of Roja Steele, Sr. became the first Black man from the state to join the Mississippi Army National Guard in 1943.
    Steele enlisted at the age of 21. His first three years of service were spent overseas during World War II as a truck driver with the Headquarters Battery, 369th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, an all-Black unit. In 1949 he rejoined the Mississippi Army National Guard as a mechanic with the 3656th Maintenance Company. He became the first African American to work at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, employed at a mechanic shop in the early 1950s.
    Dianne Steele Sumrall, Steele’s daughter, was young when her father was a Soldier but she remembers how family oriented he was.
    “He had 11 kids, and we were all little but we had a good life, we were poor but we had a good life, and we didn’t go hungry,” Sumrall said.
    Steele continued his service with the MSARNG until he passed in 1971, for a total of 25 years.
    “He was a good Soldier, an excellent soldier,” said Sumrall. “He made a way for the Blacks to be able to join. He made a way for my brother, and my daughter who is in the Mississippi National Guard right now."
    Damien Moody, grandson of Steele, expressed how proud he is to be the product of a man who made history.
    “I actually came from a heritage of something important and that's what it feels like to know that my grandfather left a legacy and has a stamp on this state,” said Moody.
    Even though Moody never got the chance to meet his grandfather, he is proud of him and the things he accomplished.
    Pictures of Steele and his awards can be viewed in the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The family looks forward to seeing him displayed at the Mississippi Armed Forced Museum as well, as Steele's legacy continues to make Mississippi proud.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 01.26.2023
    Date Posted: 02.13.2023 12:26
    Story ID: 438368
    Location: HATTIESBURG, MISSISSIPPI, US

    Web Views: 340
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN