CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq — In celebration of African-American History Month and Valentine's Day, leaders from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hosted a special ceremony at Camp Liberty Field House, Feb. 14.
Guest speaker Col. Carlton L. Day, chief of National Guard Affairs, U.S. Forces-Iraq, emphasized the importance of embracing Black history as an integral part of Americana.
"The purpose of Black History Month is not something just to talk about, but it is an opportunity to learn and educate ourselves on the accomplishment of African-Americans," said Day. "African-American history is American history."
The ceremony brought together deployed Soldiers from every racial background, gender and age to participate in the event. Organizers spent two months planning it and many who attended felt the effort reaped a reward.
"I really enjoyed the ceremony because I learned a lot about some inventors and other African-Americans that impacted the world," said Spc. Douglas Maltese, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 702nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div., personal security detachment Soldier from Lebanon, Maine. "The choir sang great, the poet was very clever, and the band was awesome."
The choir, made up of 15 Soldiers from different units, brought the crowd to their feet with loud applause. Scott Free, a civilian contractor, performed "spoken word," considered a form of free style poetry.
"We all must stand to make history in the present in order to present a better future," spoke Free. "United we stand and divided we fall."
Col. John Norris, the Raider Brigade commander, introduced Day.
"Today, we gather to recognize the many accomplishments of black Americans," said Norris. "There has not been a war fought away or in the United States in which black Americans did not participate, including the Revolutionary War, where over 5,000 black Americans joined the fight for independence."
Norris said Day is part of that same long history of service to our nation.
With a mixed crowd sitting in aluminum seats, Day stated his principles on black history.
"When I reflect on black history, I identify four principles that I would like to share with you," said Day. "The four principles are faith, hope, love and sacrifice."
The fiber of the country's history is tightly woven with that of African-Americans, Day said.
"We are celebrating Black History Month in a warzone: that's history," said Day. "We are here today because of our ancestors, and our tomorrow is up to us today."
Sgt. 1st Class Craig Brown, the brigade equal opportunity advisor and Black History Month organizer, said he saw the celebration as an opportunity to share with fellow Soldiers an important heritage of which they may not be aware.
"I wanted to make as many people as I can aware of this country's past," said Brown, a Milwaukee native. "I wanted to open the eyes of this generation that may have never heard this part of history."