News: Air Cavalry honors U.S. civil rights leader with observance
Story by Sgt. Alun Thomas
CAMP TAJI — The legacy and memory of Martin Luther King Jr., was recognized by 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at the Taji Ministry Center Jan. 18 with an observance in honor of the civil rights leader who died in 1968.
Images of King were placed throughout the center in an effort to educate brigade service members about King's life and the holiday named after him.
The work of King affected all races, not just black, said guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Gary Durant, from Pittsburgh, and command sergeant major for 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
"When a lot of people think of Martin Luther King, they think of just black people and civil rights and that's all he did," Durant said, "but he did so much more than that."
Durant said an example of this was the 1968 "Poor People's Campaign," where King tried to integrate all races into his march on Washington, D.C.
"He was fighting for poor communities, but a lot of people stepped off the march because it was focused on everyone. He had white, Hispanic and Asian [people] marching too," Durant said. "That's one of the great things he tried to do and I'm in awe of that."
Durant said because of King's innovative ways of approaching civil rights, the military should also think outside the box.
"The next time we have an observance, whether it's Martin Luther King Day or Woman's History Month — do something different," he said. "Don't ask me because I'm black to speak; ask a white man to come up and talk about Martin Luther King. That will blow everyone's minds."
That represents King's theory of equality for everyone, Durant explained.
"When you close your eyes and listen to him, everyone says the same thing; that he was a great man," Durant said. "But he was someone you can respect, that brought so much to our nation. He loved America and he loved everyone. The reason we're all here together today is why he did it for us all," he said.
King will always be remembered for his determination and inspiration to reach his goal of equality, said Lt. Col. Randall Haws, from Vernal, Utah, commander of 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB.
"His devotion made America so much better and his actions, along with so many of his brave followers, made our nation a place where liberty and equality is available for all," Haws said.
Thanks to King, America has come a long way, Haws said, due to his relentless pursuit of all citizens having the same rights.
"[King] ushered in a new era of freedoms and liberties that affected all Americans, including all of us here today," he said. "We should all strive to live our lives as Martin Luther King did before us; as shining examples of unity and fairness.
"May our actions, like that of Dr. King's, help us lead each other into his visionary promised land."