News: Deployed employees in Afghanistan achieving King’s dream, admiral says
Story by Mark Rankin
KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. Navy Rear Adm. James W. Crawford III told an audience of 85 military service members and civilian employees that they have a special opportunity to fulfill the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of equality for all Americans.
Their opportunity comes through service to the country and to their fellow Americans, he said during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Camp Eggers Jan. 16.
“I wouldn’t be standing here if it was not for Dr. King,” said Crawford, who serves as the commander of legal affairs for NATO forces in Afghanistan. “He realized that service is the great equalizer among us all – and left us with his dream. There is a reason they call us service members. Military members especially, epitomize that dream by your service and what you are doing.”
About 10 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees stationed at Qalaa House compound within the Green Zone attended the program at Eggers.
Crawford reminded them and others in the crowd that King encouraged people of all races to serve humanity through selfless service. “This dream is not just limited to some Americans, but all,” he said.
He told the audience that King’s speeches and quotes are used as examples of motivation around the world. He said the civil rights leader’s vision of equality, brotherhood, freedom and justice for all Americans provides the necessities for anyone to be successful in life. “Many of you have forgotten, but perhaps by posing this question, you will remember: What is the dream and how are you using it daily?”
He challenged those in the audience to take a few steps forward to achieve their own dreams. In an emotionally charged conclusion, the admiral said, “While we are not there yet, we are on our way. It’s because of people like you, we’ll get there.”
King would be pleased to see U.S. service members of all races working side by side in Afghanistan in service to fellow Americans half a world away, the admiral said. “I know he is smiling and looking down on all of you.”
Corps of Engineers supervisory contract specialist Jodelle Ferguson, who attended the program and sang with the Eggers gospel choir, said she was inspired by Crawford’s explanation of why King’s message remains relevant 48 years after his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
“He didn’t just use quotations from just his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech like most speakers do. He took the message from the speech and brought it to us on a personal level, so that we can implement it within our own lives,” she said. “He gave us something we can really use.”
The choir’s gospel numbers also reached her, Ferguson said.
Corps of Engineers precontract technician Evelyn Williams, who also sang with the choir, said she was motivated by Crawford challenge to audience members to personally act to achieve King’s dream and to speak out for their own beliefs.
The event was intended to increase service members and civilian employees’ awareness of King’s contributions to American history and to the civil rights movement, organizers said.
Army Capt. Keisha Spaulding, who is assigned to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan headquarters in Kabul, sang the national anthem. The Eggers choir performed "You’ve Been So Faithful” and “We’re Gonna Make It.”
King served as the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism during the 1960s civil rights movement, which protested racial discrimination in federal and state laws. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed legislation creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.