Fort Bragg paratroopers give thanks to a dream that lives on today
January 21, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Two score and 8 years ago, "a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today," gave minorities the strength to stand up for equality and justice for all men.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight for racial equality is forever commemorated on his birthday and the month of February. But as Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins, 82nd Airborne Division commander, said at the division's special observance in King's honor, "It's a time to celebrate our diversity and to look forward to what this diversity will bring to us in the future. But we shouldn't limit this to the month of February - our commitment to diversity, we should live this year round."
The ceremony held at the Fort Bragg Club started with a reenactment of King's "I Have a Dream" speech given by Lonnie Robison, a retired sergeant first class in the Army. He was followed with music from the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus and Band. A special presentation was given by two representatives of the Cape Fear Regional Theater, performing "Wheels of a Dream," a theatrical presentation about King and his wife. But the headliner for the ceremony was Lt. Gen. Dennis L. Via, director for Command, Control, Communication and Computer Systems, J6., the guest speaker for the afternoon.
"Martin Luther King Jr. was a black man, but his dream and his message transcends throughout all races and genders. MLK was a Baptist preacher, but his cry for equality and the basic rights of all human being transcends all religious beliefs. MLK was a great American, but his role as a drum major transcends all national boundaries," said Via in his speech. "This is why we commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to remind us of our personal commitment to the achievement of his dream for every future generations."
Via shared with the audience his first experience with segregation, explaining that once when his Family headed to the laundry mat to wash their clothes, he wanted a hot dog from the restaurant next door. He didn't quite understand at the time why he had to go to the back door of the restaurant to get his hot dog, but thanks to King every day Via can truly say he is free.
"And standing in front of you today, as an African American, three star, lieutenant general of the United States Army, with each passing year as I become older and perhaps a little wiser, and begin to reflect on life in general, I continue to stand in awe of this great American and his tremendous accomplishments," said Via. "A life cut short by the very act of violence that he spent his entire life championing against. Martin Luther King Jr. brought hope and healing to America through the power of his voice and the truth of his words."
According to the ceremony's coordinator, Master Sgt. Stephanie Buffaloe, 82nd Abn. Div., the special observance was put together as part of the Equal Opportunity observances that Fort Bragg does throughout the year.
"This is extremely important. (Via) and all the entertainment that was involved pretty much said it all by everything that was done to relive, reenact and commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to diversify society, carry on his legacy of freedom, freedom of speech and justice for all," she said.
"Each on of us brings something different to the table. These differences represent the diverse world that we all live in today. And it is that diversity that enriches this nation; it's what makes us stronger," Huggins said. "But no matter how diverse we are, we are all part of one team. And that one team is here for one reason - to protect America. We will continue to make sure civil rights are adhered to and we will continue to work to make Army the best Army we've ever had."