FORT POLK, La. – In the early evening hours of April 4, 1968, a single shot rang out across Memphis, Tenn. That one shot would kill the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner and an important leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray, an escaped convict, who with one shot forever quieting a powerful voice for peace.
On Nov 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making King’s birthday a national holiday. The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of January.
Soldiers from across Fort Polk gathered at the Warrior Community Center Jan. 13, 2014, to watch the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Ceremony. Before the guest speaker took to the podium, excerpts were read from three different Dr. King speeches.
“The speeches, to include the guest speaker, moved me because I was reminded of the accomplishments society has made thanks to proactive thinkers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and just how much better our reality is thanks to what once was a dream,” said Capt. Paige Porchia, Asst Logistical Officer, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
Even though more than four decades have passed since King’s assassination, for some hearing his words are like being in his presence.
“The power of the words and the clarity of the passion invoked inspiration,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sonja Burks, command food adviser, 4th BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. “The notion that one man can and did change history, that thought is immense beyond belief.”
The King ceremony guest speaker, Col. Timothy Phillips, who serves as the provisional commander, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, spoke on Dr. King’s ability to bring America together as a community.
“Many issues that our communities face today are struggles with social issues. Dr. King challenged our country to look at itself, with a new outlook for the future. Not by what divides us, but by what we all strive for and what we have in common,” said Phillips. “He taught us how to address problems, by working together and being open to change.”
From a humble share-cropper in the South, Dr. King’s voice grew into ideals that would forever shape this great nation and continue to inspire individuals for generations. In the 48 years since Dr. King was assassinated, his teachings have spread to every sector throughout America to include the U.S. Military.
“If we as soldiers stay vigilant and observant and remember to always treat each other fairly and with dignity then his dream lives,” said Burks. “If a leader takes responsibility and actually leads the way, demonstrating the path to success instead of just preaching it, soldiers will gladly follow. When individual soldiers are committed to success, the team will be successful. When the team is committed to success, this is when we all will see the true meaning of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.”