Story and photos by
Sgt. Giancarlo Casem
11th ACR Public Affairs

FORT IRWIN, Calif.-The Fort Irwin, Calif., community came together at the Sandy Basin Community Center to celebrate African-American History Month, Feb. 1.

Hundreds of Soldiers, family members and civilians came to hear the guest speaker, Irma Hunter-Brown. Brown served as a member of the Arkansas General Assembly, she has served in the House of Representatives and the Senate for 24 years. The observance, hosted by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment's Regimental Support Squadron, focused on African-Americans' service in the military during the Civil War.

"Each February, we remember and recommit. We remember the many pivotal and powerful African-American figures, not just from the civil rights era, but throughout human history," Brown said. "We also recommit to the legacy they left behind and the work left for us to do."

Brown stressed the contributions countless African-Americans have given to the country. She cited both military and civilian figures who paved the way not just for African-Americans, but all people of color.

"Each of us, who stand here today, stands on the shoulders of someone who went before," she said. "You didn't get here by yourself. You got here because someone dared to go before, someone dared to say we need a change, and someone dared to go out and do it."

African-Americans have served bravely and honorably in all of America's conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism. Brown added that today's Soldiers are exceptional in that they are an all-volunteer force.

African-American History Month was officially observed in 1976. The observance was started in 1926 as Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson. Woodson's aim was to educate other Americans about the involvement of African-Americans in shaping the nation and its history. The observance held at the National Training Center coincided with Woodson's vision of education.

"I wanted to share our history with the Soldiers of Fort Irwin," said Staff Sgt. Robert Merrill, RSS, 11th ACR. "It is important to me to participate because I am proud to be an African-American in the United States Army."

Merrill, a native of San Antonio, Texas, serves as a command financial specialist and is also a member of the RSS Equal Opportunity Office. He helped coordinate the day's events and said that not only did he enjoy the opportunity to teach fellow Soldiers, but he also learned about African-American history as well.

Brown added that the reason the observance is still relevant is that even though African-Americans have made huge strides in American society, there are still discrepancies between races. African-American history is a part of American history and their contributions benefit not only Americans, but all of humanity as well.

"Black History Month is about all people, not just Black men, women and children, but all people studying about those Black men and women who contributed to the advancement of human civilization," Brown said. "Learning from what they did and executing the necessary to ensure the continued betterment of the people. It is about the implementation of what is needed."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16