South Boston, VA - The Buffalo Soldiers are known throughout history as African-American servicemen who fought in segregated infantries in times of war.
For Raymond Shelton, a South Boston man who served as a medic with the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II, the recognition he's recently received has been a dream come true.
At 99 years-old, his love for his country is still just as lively as he is.
Raymond Shelton, known locally as the "maestro", now spends much of his time at his piano doing what he loves.
Shelton has an extraordinary past.
"At that time, you don't think anything about it, you know? Now, we're getting the recognition," Shelton said.
Shelton was a medic in the 92nd Infantry, the only African-American army division that fought in Europe during WWII. His duties kept him out of combat, but danger was always just a few steps away.
"When I was drafted, I asked one of the officers, 'What are these bags for?' He said, 'That's to put your body in, in case you don't come back,'" Shelton said.
Shelton said he'll never forget the painful task of carrying lost comrades from the battlefield and sending their belongings back home.
"Once in a while, you'll come across one that you'd been with all that time, and it was very heartbreaking to see that," Shelton said.
Originally from New York, Shelton moved to South Boston in the late 1970's. He's become a staple at local churches and nursing homes, sharing his gift of music with anyone who will listen.
"He came to our attention because he was a member of the greatest generation, and we wanted to honor him for his service," said Town Manager Ted Daniel.
Daniel and Town Council came together to honor Shelton in April.
Shelton received resolutions and certificates of merit from the town, Senator Mark Warner and Governor Bob McDonnell, just to name a few.
"I didn't want to get swell headed, I wouldn't be able to get my cap on...but I was elated. I just couldn't believe it," Shelton said.
Now, Shelton says he will continue to live his active lifestyle in the community, while those around him wonder where his youthful vitality comes from.
Shelton says he will always cherish the homage paid to him and his division.
"After all these years, I didn't think it would go this far. It makes you feel like you are on cloud nine," Shelton added.
Shelton went on to retire as a grocery store manager following his military service.
The 20 year cancer survivor says the keys to longevity are staying off the couch and finding humor in everything you can.
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