FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 23, 2014) -- Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day has come and gone, Dr. King's legacy and teachings live on through February during African American History Month, and Fort Rucker will honor that history with events planned throughout the month.
To kick off the month, the Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity office and the post exchange will host the African American History Month kickoff event Jan. 31 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the post exchange to promote diversity and inclusion in the armed forces, said Susie Antonello, Army and Air Force Exchange Service visual merchandiser.
The event will feature performances, prizes and complimentary food tastings, and Sgt. Maj. Marvin J. Pinckney, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence G-3 sergeant major, will be on hand as the guest speaker for the event. Attendees will also be treated to performances by the Fort Rucker Elementary School choir, as well as presentations and performances from other local acts, said Antonello.
The theme for this year's African American History Month observance on Fort Rucker is "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow! Civil Rights in America," and was chosen in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, said Sgt. 1st Class Caleb Baugh, battalion equal opportunity leader for 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.
"Today's Army is diverse, and we derive strength from the diverse cultures, perspectives, skills and other qualities of our personnel," he said. "Soldiers and Army civilians must now add not only a cultural understanding of the lands in which we may be deployed, but also a better grasp of the many characteristics and backgrounds in our own formations."
"This is a time to honor the contributions that African Americans have made to our country," added Antonello. "African Americans have shaped our nation and have influenced American life, and the exchange is proud to honor these achievements."
Antonello said that the event is a great way for the Fort Rucker community to have a good time and enjoy good food, while learning about the many contributions that African Americans have made in civilian and military life.
"With this event, we salute African American men and women who served in the military," she said. "They played a vital role in the struggle for freedom and equality in our American culture, and this event will create awareness and appreciation for diversity in our country."
The kickoff event isn't the only event that will be held to honor the contributions of African Americans throughout the month.
There will be a book reading at the Center Library Feb. 7 from 10:15-11 a.m. for children up to 6 years old, followed by arts and crafts activities. The Black History 5k and 1-mile fun run will be Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. and promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as awareness for African American History Month.
There will be a luncheon in honor of African American History Month Feb. 13 at the dining facility for Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians, and Baugh said it's a good opportunity for Soldiers and civilians to come together and share a meal.
On Feb. 14, Rucker Lanes will host a bowling tournament with trivia that will play on the overhead screens to test people's knowledge of African American history as they compete for prizes.
An educational field research trip to the George W. Carver Interpretive Museum in Dothan will be Feb. 21 from 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., and those interested in attending can call 255-2951 for more information.
Feb. 27, The Landing will host a Black History Month luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., which will feature guest speaker Ed Vaughn, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Alabama State Conference president.
For more information on any of these events, call 255-2951.
All of these events help people on Fort Rucker understand the importance of what it's like to "walk a mile" in another person's shoes, said Baugh. Developing understanding of fellow Soldiers is important in creating a more unified Army and nation, he added.
"Every U.S. Army Soldier, civilian and Family member has a different background, culture and thought process from which he or she can draw," he said. "When these differences are combined and work together, it creates an adaptive, culturally strong Army that enhances our capabilities around the world.
"Having these observances allows us to see the struggles of those that stepped up and fought to unify the beliefs of the nation regarding Civil Rights and bring about a change to see how we can make it better," Baugh added.