FORT HOOD, Texas – With Black History Month in full swing, units at Fort Hood held an observance to honor and celebrate the contributions made by African-Americans to our nation.
III Corps and the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division’s equal opportunity offices hosted the “Strength through Equality” Black History Month observance here at Club Hood Feb. 21.
During the ceremony, there were performances by the “Spur of the Moment” 1st Cav. Div. Jazz Band, recitations of former slave narratives by the Viva Les Arts Theatre, and a speech from Carlyle Walton, the president and CEO of Metroplex Adventist Hospital in Killeen, Texas.
The event also featured a guest appearance from retired Lt. Col. Granville Coggs, one of an estimated 50 remaining Tuskegee Airmen – the first all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Ala.
“Being here during this significant occasion is a great feeling,” Coggs said. “I have no words profound enough to describe the pride I feel in being one of the last Tuskegee Airmen left and having the opportunity to come to an event like this and share my story – our story.”
Tuskegee Airmen refers to all who were involved in the “Tuskegee Experiment,” a program developed by the Army Air Corps in 1941 to train African-American soldiers to fly and maintain combat aircraft, including pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, and instructors.
Before then, African-Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Subject to racial discrimination, the 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who served with the all-black units would be credited with 15,500 combat sorties and earn more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their efforts during World War II.
The highly publicized successes of the Tuskegee Airmen helped pave the way for the eventual integration of the U.S. Armed Forces under President Truman in 1948.
“I’m proud of everything my fellow soldiers did for our country,” Coggs said. “I’m just as proud of the soldiers still protecting our nation today. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of history.”
Sgt. 1st Class Christine Meredith, an equal opportunity noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cav. Bde., organized the event seeking to make a lasting impact on troops and civilians.
“This ceremony was meant to be informative and educational to all cultures,” said Meredith, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. “Observances like this aren’t just held for a certain race. It’s important for everybody to hear the history of our fellow brothers-in-arms, as well as the trials and tribulations they overcame.”
With many young Troops in attendance, the event helped to educate soldiers who may not have fully understood the magnitude of adversity African-Americans faced, as well as the contributions they have made to the nation, said Meredith.
“Our young soldiers in attendance got a first-hand look at the history of African-American soldiers within our ranks,” Meredith said. “The event was successful, as the attendees seemed engaged and inspired. I think they’ll have a better appreciation for what this culture had to endure to get here, and they’ll understand how it ultimately has an effect on everyone.”