By Ms. Kristen Marquez (IMCOM)January 21, 2009
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Maj. Gen. Byron S. Bagby, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army chief of staff, was only 7 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., Aug. 28, 1963.
He was 12 years old when King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., April 4, 1968. He attended segregated schools until the sixth grade.
On Jan. 15, Bagby was the guest speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration in the newly renovated Patrick Henry Village Pavilion.
Bagby spoke on the importance of remembering King's legacy.
"My friends, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, is a day on, not a day off," he said.
He told the crowd of around 300 Heidelberg military community members that they were there to celebrate the birth of Michael King Jr. - and then told them the story of when Martin Luther King Jr.'s family traveled in 1934, the senior King learned about Martin Luther.
He was so impressed that upon returning to the States, he decided to change his name and the name of his son to Martin Luther King.
Bagby said he believes the importance of honoring King can be carried on through Soldiers, and the Army's diversity is a good example of that.
"The theme of diversity I think is the one thing that the military can take from Dr. King's examples, and basically what he professed about his entire life before he was killed," Bagby said.
He pointed out the diversity of the audience in attendance. "He pushed the theme of diversity and equality for everyone, and I think when you look at the diversity dimension, when you look at the audience today - there were civilians, there were military personnel of all ranks from lower ranking up to the major general level, there were high-ranking civilians, all specialties, many different units, different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities," he said.
The overall theme for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day was 'Make it a day on, not a day off,' as Bagby stressed in his speech. He also pointed out that the message can be carried throughout the year.
"I think that we should look at that all year round - help other people, volunteer at hospitals, at child care centers, churches, help those who need assistance," he said. "We tend to look at federal holidays as a day off and not a day on.
"Yes, we're off from work, but we should use that as a chance to go out and do something for somebody else."
The breakfast celebration also included a reading of an original poem, "Can a Man Believe," by U.S. Army Garrison Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg Command Sgt. Maj. Yolanda J. Lomax.
Sgt. 1st Class Larry Gray, the Equal Opportunity advisor for the U.S. Army NATO Brigade, was one of the planners of the breakfast celebration.
"With an event like this it's good to educate the community on the works of Dr. Martin Luther King so that people can see how far we've come in getting closer to Dr. King's dream," Gray said.
The holiday was first officially observed Jan. 20, 1986, with an aim of making the holiday a day on, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move the nation closer to the "Beloved Community" King envisioned, according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Web site.