By Ryan Mattox, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeJanuary 18, 2018
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- (Jan. 18, 2018) Nearly 50 years after his death, Martin Luther King's message continues to challenge the nation to recognize that individuals should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
That is what the Soldiers and civilians from the Mission and Installation Contracting Command demonstrated by hosting the 2018 Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance that was attend by more than 300 military and community members Jan. 17 here.
The national theme of the observance is, "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on, not a day off" to encourage individuals to dedicate the day to community service.
The observance honored King by remembering his actions, the strength of his leadership, the power of his words, and the inspiration of his call for justice.
"The Army is committed to the ideas endorsed by King -- treating every individual with dignity and respect," said Brig. Gen. Bill Boruff, the MICC commanding general. "Today, our Soldiers are mentally, physically and emotionally strong. This internal strength and perseverance reflect the Army's values. As King once said, 'the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'"
King was a prominent leader of the African-American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He led multiple nonviolent movements to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. King, who was assassinated in April 1968, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his iconic efforts to end racial segregation and discrimination in America.
Highlights of the observance included guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Oates, the 32nd Medical Brigade command sergeant major, and music from the Hamilton Brothers, who sang "Lift Every Voice" and "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's last words on April 4, 1968, were to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at a planned event. King said, "Ben, make sure you play 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."
The Rev. Otis Mitchell re-enacted excerpts from two of King's speeches. The first was King's April 3, 1968, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, and then his "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he detailed his vision of racial equality in America at a 1963 civil rights march on the nation's capital.
Oates, who was chosen as this year's guest speaker, said that the ability of King's message to transcend time is the reason we should continue to honor him.
"Doctor King was full of imagination," Oates said. "Doctor King was beaten and slain, but he had a belief beyond his torment. His imagination allowed him to see a better outcome -- it allowed him to see this nation rise and live the true meaning of his creed. It also allowed him to see his four children grow up in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of the character."
He added that King helped lay the foundation for social equality, but that individuals must continue the struggle to end racial discrimination.
Boruff said he believes that the Army and its leadership is dedicated to leveraging the strength of its diverse force and ensuring equality for all its members.
"It is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that our common mission has been made possible only through the struggles of many who came before us," Boruff said. "And nearly 50 years after his death, Doctor King's example continues to guide us today. Let us all commemorate Doctor King's memory -- by recommitting ourselves to our profession of arms and to serving something bigger than ourselves. And remember to keep dreaming."