By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterJanuary 23, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 23, 2014) -- There once was a voice of freedom that called out for justice using nonviolence, but all too soon that voice that shared a message of having courage in the face of opposition and love when experiencing hate, was snuffed out.
But other voices arose to spread Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of peace and justice overcoming all barriers, and it is still alive today in the people that live those values in their own lives as they go out and meet conflicted people.
Fort Rucker helped spread King's message and honored his legacy during an event at the post theater Jan. 16.
King was instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act, and the post celebrated his accomplishments with inspirational readings, speeches, prayers and songs that had many in tears and on their feet.
Guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. William S. Hayes, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment command sergeant major, who is a native of Memphis, Tenn., where King was killed, went into character several times while reading segments of the Declaration of Independence, portions of King's speeches, as well as works used by Nelson Mandela, Marianne Williamson and Thomas Jefferson.
"Today we celebrate the legacy of the life of a legendary American. As a military man, his works are important because his teachings tear down separations and barriers, and he tried to foster an environment that commanders need in today's Army," he said.
"We need to give of ourselves for the greater good of this country. One man has died for the legacy of our country. We should never give up that dream," he continued.
King was a legend of pioneers during a time when "change must be," who was willing to suffer in order to achieve a better future, said Hayes. King suffered and sacrificed not only for his own children, but for "yours and mine."
Hayes believed that King recognized and identified a cancer in the ideology of America, saying that in order to bring change to the world people must first bring change into themselves.
"We must restore our beliefs in ourselves. We are a generous people so why can't we be generous one to another," he asked. "We must take inventory within ourselves. We must inspire before we can even think about celebrating what we have achieved."
The theme of the program was "Celebrate, Cultivate, Motivate: Keep the Dream Alive" and the program helped inspire some to begin making changes for the better, whether that be chasing a dream or helping others.
"Without a dream you have no goal and no focus," he said. "It would be a waste of talent, abilities, gifts and ideas. Those ideas, gifts and talents help and encourage others, and without encouragement we can't motivate anyone. We are no good to society (without dreams)."
During his time as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, King achieved more progress toward racial equality in America than anyone else in the three previous centuries of America's history, according to www.thekingcenter.org.
King's vision was not specific to African Americans, though, but to all minorities, men and women, and with his nonviolent approach to changing the world around him he was able to inspire countless generations, said Col. Stuart J. McRae, garrison commander.
"It is important that we never forget the dream of (King) and that we continue to make strides, not just for color, but for (everyone). Together all of us will achieve more, a message that we were reminded of today," he said at the end of the program.
Hayes said America should never forget the magnitude of King's teachings, which have helped shaped the nation today.
"Today … I feel … that my presence … is one additional bit of evidence that America's dream has not been and need not ever be deferred," he said. "We are people in search of a national community. We are people not only trying to solve problems of the present, but of the future. We are tempting to fill a national purpose to create and sustain a society in America in which all of us our equal."