Omar Tyree, a New York Times bestselling author, addressed the crowd during a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday ceremony Jan. 17 on Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Soldiers, family members, and civilians celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. during an observance Jan. 17 in Heritage Hall on Rock Island Arsenal. The ceremony's theme was "Remember! Celebrate! Act!"

Mickoyan Williams of the First Army G3 section touched on the importance of remembering King and his dream: "Dr. King's unfinished movement toward equality can be achieved by our united, enduring efforts."

New York Times bestselling author Omar Tyree served as guest speaker. Speaking without notes and away from the podium, Tyree addressed the audience in a conversational tone, peppering his speech with anecdotes and personal memories.

Tyree grew up in inner city Philadelphia, where quick wits and fists can be a plus. As such, Tyree said when he was a teenager, "I wasn't really into this nonviolence thing that I saw from Dr. Martin Luther King. I would hear him say, 'I have a dream.' Well, I'm not a dreamer, I'm a tactician, I'm a planner. So the dream thing never resonated with me."

But that changed after viewing a documentary on King's contributions to the civil rights movement.

"When I saw him nonviolently standing up against men with boots and batons on horses, with water hoses and police dogs, and the courage that it took to do that, I had a new respect and appreciation for him," he said.

Tyree also noted that, by his twenties, King had set himself up for success and could have avoided the civil rights movement in exchange for an easier life.

"My son is 16 and I have to tell him eight times to clean his room," Tyree said. "But when King was 15, he left for college. Then he got advanced degrees in a time when most black folks couldn't read or travel in the front of trains and busses or drink from the same water fountains as whites."

Besides earning a doctorate, King also got married and began a family. "He was set," Tyree said. "He could have just lived his life. He could have just sat there. But he said, 'I know I'm living well, but what about these people? And then the bus situation in Selma went down."

After rising to national prominence through leading the bus boycott, King became the subject of wrath for many, and his house was destroyed. This only increased his resolve.

"His character was such that he fought for other individuals," Tyree said. "He wasn't just fighting for one color or people. He said we should all be part of the fabric of this community. He had the courage to fight for his convictions even though they were deeply unpopular with some."

Maj. Gen. Kendall Penn, First Army deputy commanding general for operations, closed the ceremony by highlighting some of King's accomplishments and encouraging attendees to follow through on the theme of remembering, celebrating and acting.

Page last updated Thu January 17th, 2013 at 17:02