Story by CPL Michael Smith on 02/28/2018
"This theme commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War, it and provides us the opportunity to focus on and highlight the contributions of African American soldiers, past and present, who have served and continue to serve in our great nation's army," said Sgt. 1st Class Melissa Smith, equal opportunity advisor, 1CDSB.
Pastor Rodney W. Gilchrist, Sgt. Maj. (Ret.), a 24-year Army veteran whose final assignment was at III Corps, served as the guest speaker.
"African American history during times of war is rich in service and honor," said Gilchrist. "It is filled with the ironies of valor as well as the difficulties of defeat. It is a history littered with setbacks and struggles for civil rights both abroad and at home."
The observance included poetry readings, a dance performance by the Liberty Christian Center Performing Arts Ministry, where Gilchrist is the pastor, and an awards presentation by Col. Steven Carozza, commander, 1CDSB.
Pfc. Perrish Goggins, 1CDSB, who sang the National Anthem at the observance, said he was most impressed by the power of the messages and how they were displayed through the variety of speech, song and dance.
"Events like this are important for our daily growth and a way to share in each other's cultures, and when we understand our differences, we accomplish more together," said Goggins. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity to be a part of something that is helping shape our environment."
Sgt. Brittany Talley, 1CDSB, also sang an emotional rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a historic song that is synonymous with the civil rights movement.
"The American military has a degree and quality of racial integration that is rarely encountered anywhere else. The military is, as a general rule, more effectively integrated than the rest of our society, said Gilchrist. "The military is not perfect and there is still work to be done, but when it comes to racial diversity, the army and the American military truly are leading the way."
National African American History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans and an opportunity to recognize the central role they have played in our nation's history.
"Events like this show the growth and development of a culture and how African Americans helped shape, not only the Army, but the entire world," said Goggins.
How fitting that the theme of this observance, attended by so many soldiers on the military installation on which they work daily, focuses on the achievements of African Americans in times of war.
"African Americans have been selflessly serving in the ranks of America's armed forces, from the Revolution to today's wars on terrorism in both Iraq an Afghanistan," said Gilchrist. "Even when they could not enjoy all the freedoms espoused by the Constitution, and the truths upheld in the Declaration of Independence weren't true for them, African Americans were fighting to make and keep these United States the land of the free and the home of the brave."
As part of their contribution to the observance, the Liberty Christian Center Performing Arts Ministry gave an inspirational song and dance performance to the song, "You Will Win," by Jekalyn Carr, which drew the crowd to its' feet.
"We win because of all of your joint efforts," said Gilchrist. "The little things that you do, help us win, so don't stop doing them. Just remember that everything attached to you wins, and that is what I want you to take away from this."