Black history still influences today's Army
February 29, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash.--Black History Month honors the accomplishments that African Americans have made throughout our country's history.
Master Sergeant Shellie Willis believes Black History Month is important because it educates and places emphasis on significant history in America.
"We have to know and remember where we came from in order to know where we're going," Willis said.
Willis took a moment to reflect on how those historical contributions that continues to make an impact on her life.
"Many African Americans had to fight to be heard and I am forever grateful for their sacrifices," Willis said.
The military has encountered many African American firsts, such as the Buffalo Soldiers, who made up the first African American cavalry recognized by the U.S. Army.
"It's humbling to know that we stand on the shoulders of such a diverse and ever progressing culture," said Willis, a native of Garland, Texas. "The movie Red Tails is an awesome portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen and spoke greatly of the story."
Red Tails was released February 2012, it displays how a crew of African American pilots who were discriminated against were called to duty during World War II and greatly succeed.
Willis believes even her 25-years of service has made an impact on African American history and that the service of every Soldier does as well.
"I'm yet another story that has made an impact in the military by serving my country and making many sacrifices through the years," Willis said.
Black History Month was first observed in 1976, and the observation continues every February. Many critics feel there is no need for the observation because African-Americans have the same opportunities as their counterparts.
Willis refutes critics who say there is no need for the observation.
"February should continue to be African American history month," Willis said. "Even though I believe that African American contributions should always be celebrated, it's a month to raise awareness for future generations."
Captain Erica Wright, a special projects officer assigned to I Corps, supports Willis's thoughts on the importance of observing Black History Month.
"I believe that every culture in America should be celebrated and praised for their contributions which have help develop our country," Wright said. "Educating everyone helps bridge any cultural divides."
Even though Willis's relatives are not famous, she feels that her grandfather who served in the Korean War, and her other family members who have made the ultimate sacrifice, did their part for their country.
Equal Opportunity Offices host numerous cultural celebrations along with Black History Month throughout the year as part of their efforts to shine a light on many different cultures in our society.
"I appreciate these celebrations, but we must remember to educate as well," said Willis, a member of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.
There are many more African-Americans who have made an impact and continue to do so even now. To learn more visit www.army.mil/africanamericans.