By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsJanuary 11, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 11, 2018) -- Fort Drum community members celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his infinite ability to inspire social change during a special observance Jan. 10.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday that honors a private citizen, and it was created in 1994 through legislation co-authored by former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wolford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis. The two veterans of the Civil Rights Movement proposed a day for people to engage in meaningful service projects that would uplift communities and honor King's dream of a better nation. It was signed into law on Aug. 23, 1994, by President Bill Clinton.
"This federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King holiday into a day of citizen action and volunteer service in honor of Dr. King," said 2nd Lt. Angela Hartless, event narrator. "This challenge has been accepted by millions of volunteers in this country who have donated their time to make a difference on this day."
The program included a poem recitations by Spc. Taylor Lunsford and an invocation by Chaplain (Capt.) Amy Smith. Attendees also viewed a video of King's "I Have a Dream" speech and a portion of his final public remarks the day before he was assassinated.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Bostic, 10th Special Troops Battalion senior enlisted adviser, 10th Sustainment Brigade, spoke as guest speaker at the event, and said that King continues to serve as a reminder about the power of speech and how words matter.
"Many words of Dr. King's still inspire us today," he said. "Dr. King's speeches, contributions to the movements for equality in America, sparked influence and leadership in others that eventually led to the passing of laws that ended legal segregation and made the pursuit of the American dream possible for all."
He said that his parents grew up in segregated schools, and his uncle and a close family friend had served in a segregated Army.
"They remind me of how challenging opportunities were for them," Bostic said. "Opportunities that, in hindsight, I sort of took for granted early in my career. My relatives helped me understand their struggle to serve their country."
Bostic said that, like many people in the audience, for most of his life he grew up in the America that King dreamed of -- one without segregation or public racism. He said it isn't perfect, but it is right.
"Imagine not being able to pursue something because of the color of your skin. Imagine this Army if only one race was allowed to serve. Imagine places on this post where only certain races could eat, or certain times of the day where certain races could shop. Because of Dr. King, many things are possible in terms of equality for all."
Bostic said that King's example of peaceful protest can be seen today.
"Just this week, there were peaceful protests for certain rights and due process for sexual assault victims in our nation's capital," he said. "We also know of recent protests in cities against police violence, and we have professional athletes kneeling during our national anthem to take a stance against police brutality at sporting venues. Dr. King's peaceful approach and demeanor makes that possible. We celebrate that Dr. King taught us to protest responsibly and respectfully."
Bostic said that technology allows people to talk through their watches, order groceries through an app and take photographs and videos with a phone. He encouraged people to take advantage of technology and use it to make a difference.
"When you post to social media this MLK Jr. Day, celebrate and share something you learned about him, and how you helped others on this day," Bostic said. "This year on MLK Jr. Day, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube yourself serving others. Let acts of kindness and service to others trend across our nation. You see, the simplest act of kindness from anyone to another in some need carries Dr. King's dream further."
Col. Shawn Schuldt, 10th Sustainment Brigade commander, said that more than 100 nations observe and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and that it serves as a reminder of both the progress made and the actions still needed to bring equality to the world.
"As institutions, the Army and the Department of Defense have often led the way on civil rights issues," he said. "President Roosevelt signed the executive order in 1948 that racially integrated all services. This occurred nine years before the actions of Rosa Parks and 15 years before the crisis in Birmingham. It is important to recognize the leadership that our service has led this country through, and that is in honor of Dr. King."
He also reminded his Soldiers that they have the opportunity before the holiday to volunteer for a brigade service project in the local community. This is the second year that 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade Soldiers have conducted a service project in conjunction with the holiday.
"Please, we ask you to feel free to join us and feel free to leave here not just with words but with (a commitment to) action, as we work together to make the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday a day on and not a day off," Schuldt said.