General Colin Powell (1937–2021)
Section 60, Grave 11917
General Colin Powell, a Vietnam veteran, was the first African American to hold three of the U.S. government’s highest positions: national security advisor (1987-1989), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993), and secretary of state (2001-2005). The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell grew up in the South Bronx and enrolled in Army ROTC during college; he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1958. By 1989, he had risen to the rank of four-star general. Appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 1989, Powell oversaw U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf War (August 1990 to February 1991). He elaborated the Powell Doctrine, which called for American military force to be used only if it could be overwhelming and decisive. As secretary of state during 9/11 and its aftermath, Powell advocated the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, but later spoke more critically of this decision. Overall, Powell’s leadership transformed American military strategy and diplomacy for the post-Cold War era. His many awards and decorations include two Presidential Medals of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.