WASHINGTON - Joint Base Commander Col. Fern O. Sumpter was invited to speak at the inauguration of the National Gallery of Art's "Tell It With Pride" exhibit Sept. 10 in Washington.

The centerpiece of the exhibit features artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens' memorial created to honor soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the first regiments of African American soldiers formed during the Civil War, and their white commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw. The memorial depicts Shaw on horseback leading the soldiers of the 54th at the battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina on July 18, 1863.

As an African American military leader who grew up in Massachusetts, Sumpter stated, "I am proud to call Boston home. The soldiers of the 54th trained at Camp Meigs in Readville, known today as West Roxbury and only a few miles from where I spent my teenage and young adult years."

Sumpter spoke about going to college and beginning her military career in Massachusetts and drew correlations between the fight for freedom by the soldiers of the 54th and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

"I am forever grateful to the brave men of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment ... those soldiers, who overcame obstacles even before the first shot was fired ... soldiers who blazed a trail for all African Americans serving today," Sumpter said.

Other speakers at the inauguration included Earl A. Powell, director of the National Gallery of Art; Sarah Greenough, the gallery's senior curator; and Carl Cruz, the great-great-grandnephew of Sgt. Willaim H. Carney, a member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment and the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor.