Fort Sill celebrates Legacy of Dr. King
January 23, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. (Jan. 23, 2014) -- Lawton Police Chief and retired Army Reserve Col. James Smith urged people to act upon Dr. Martin Luther King's mission of community service.
"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree ... You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love," said Smith, as he quoted King.
Smith was the speaker at Fort Sill's annual Dr. MLK Day celebration Jan. 16. Hundreds of people packed the Patriot Club to hear about the legacy of King.
The commemorative luncheon was co-sponsored by the 75th Fires Brigade and Installation Equal Employment Opportunity Office and hosted by the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.
The birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, said master of ceremonies Maj. Stacy Mitchell, 75th FiB S-6 (communications) officer in charge. The theme is "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off."
In his invocation, Chaplain (Maj.) Kevin Niehoff, 75th FiB said: "Dr. King fought for America to live up to its founding principles as many of us here have fought and sacrificed for. May we remember where we have been as a nation, that we may see clearly where we are headed. Let us celebrate his vision."
Smith, who has been police chief for one year, compared King to Pope Francis, because both men were able to change traditions relatively quick.
King was able to transform centuries-old bigotry and hatred, he said.
Smith, a former military policeman, read an excerpt from King's letter when he was incarcerated in a Birmingham (Ala.) jail.
"For years now I have heard the word 'wait.' It rings in the ear of every negro with piercing familiarity This 'wait' has always meant 'never,'" read Smith.
The police chief also spoke about the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Sill in the late 1800s.
"The Buffalo Soldiers known for their fierce fighting abilities showed what black Americans were capable of when given the respect, education and opportunity they deserved," Smith said. Col. Benjamin Grierson, the first Fort Sill post commander, fought for 25 years to achieve equal status for his black comrades of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers.
"We are all descendants of those Buffalo Soldiers, of the Tuskegee Airmen, of the Navy's Golden 13," said Smith. "We have climbed on their backs and stood on their shoulders."
Afterward, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, thanked Smith and presented him with a pen set.
"The legacy of Dr. King left us with one of action, and we encourage all of you to get involved," the general said. "Whether it is volunteering in the community, on post or keeping a continuous awareness of how you can help."