Walter Cole remembers his military service like it's always on the top of his mind.
"United States Army. 1969-70. Long Bihn, Vietnam. The depot.”
He even knows exactly how long he served: 11 months, four days and eight hours.
A former United States Army Sergeant from Buffalo, Cole is proud of the history of which he's a part.
"We, African Americans, have served in every conflict this country has had," he said.
That's why Friday's groundbreaking for the African American Veterans Monument at the Naval and Military Park in Buffalo bears so much significance.
"It means a lot that we will finally get the recognition that we deserve," he said.
Many call the tribute the first of its kind in the country to represent all conflicts and all branches of the military, and local veterans like the Rev. Eugene Pierce are quick to point out it's been a long time coming.
"We should have had it earlier, but it's better late than never," said Pierce, himself an army veteran.
The monument has been years in the making. A committee has raised about $1 million for the project, but they still need another $500,000 to finish it.
Plans include 12 pillars to represent all the armed conflicts in U.S. history, all in which African Americans have served. Those pillars will be spaced apart in a representation of years of peace between the wars. For $250, community members can purchase bricks with a veteran's name on them for the monument's walkway.
"There is nothing that honors them all at the same time. Every branch, every war, all in one site,” said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “I think it will draw national attention and people will come here to participate.”
Construction will begin next spring; worth the wait for those who gave so much for something greater than themselves.
"I'm so proud of this project and the thought that people will come from all over the world to review the history of not only the American fighting man, but the American Black fighting man, and fighting woman," Pierce said.