Alfred “Al” Bristol received Rockland County’s 2012 Buffalo Solider Award on Thursday. Bristol, who is a decorated World War II veteran, recently turned 100.
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef described Bristol as “A real Rocklander.”
Bristol served during WW II in an anti-aircraft artillery unit mostly in the Pacific and had been in the reserves before the war began. He was a member of the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry and fought in Okinawa. His medals include the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
Vanderhoef presented the 19th annual award to the Piermont resident in a room filled with veterans from other wars. He spoke about Bristol’s involvement in the community. He described Bristol as a Rocklander who grew up in the county and raised his family at Camp Shanks, which after the war formed part of Tappan.
“Mr. Bristol is a legend in Tappan,” said Vanderhoef. “He helped found the Tappan Library. He spent 30 plus years on its board, serving seven years as its president.”
Vanderhoef spoke about Bristol’s involvement with saving Clausland Mountain, his years working with Sotheby’s and teaching tennis. Bristol is senior vice commander of Piermont’s VFW Post.
“This year’s honoree is not only an outstanding citizen (with) an outstanding military career but he has helped shape Rockland from its very foundation,” said Vanderhoef. “And that’s unique not just because of his 100 years but because of his activities, because of his involvement.”
Bristol, who had numerous medals and awards pinned to his jacket, saluted after receiving the honor.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s really an honor to receive this. That’s all I can say.”
Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) presented Bristol with a New York State Senate Proclamation and thanked him for his service in the military and to the nation, Rockland County and the Tappan Library.
Grady Anderson of Spring Valley, the 1996 Buffalo Award recipient, said the idea for the presentation came in 1993 from Jerry Donnellan, the director of the county’s Veteran’s Service Agency. Anderson explained the purpose was to honor unsung black military heroes during Black History Month.
Everett Swann of Nyack was the 2011 award recipient and he also had the experience of living at Camp Shanks.
“Camp Shanks as far as I’m concerned was one of the most democratic places in Rockland County,” said Swann.
A panel of previous honorees helped choose Bristol for this year’s Buffalo Soldier Award. Since 1993, the Buffalo Solider Award has been presented yearly to an outstanding African American veteran who is a county resident.
It is named after the soldiers of the 10th Black Calvary Regiment, who were nicknamed “Buffalo Soldiers.” Native Americans spoke about the soldiers’ bravery and fortitude, comparing them to buffalo because they suffered wound after wound yet did not die. The 10th Calvary served in the Kansas Frontier, Indian Wars, World War I, World War II and Vietnam.