By Pvt. Casey A. CollierJanuary 24, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The gymnasium at the Ritz-Epps Fitness Center didn't look so much like a gymnasium, but more like a red-carpet affair with place settings for honored attendees and poster boards displaying photographs of Martin Luther King Jr., which contained excerpts from his speeches and letters.
Servicemembers and civilians gathered at the Ritz-Epps Fitness Center to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during a ceremony held here Jan. 15.
The observance was hosted by the 16th Military Police Brigade and was coordinated by the XVIII Airborne Corps Equal Opportunity Office.
Noted guests included Cletus Williams, an aide to the Rosa Parks family during the Civil Rights Movement and Ronald McElrath, director of the Human Relations Committee for Fayetteville and Cumberland County, and his wife, Clayvonne Blackwell.
"As Dr. King takes his place in our history as one of America's spiritual fathers and heroes, may we humbly take our place at the front of the continuing struggle for liberty and justice for all," said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Drake, chaplain, 16th MP Brigade.
Col. John F. Garrity, 16th MP Brigade commander, gave remarks focusing on the ceremony's theme: "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off."
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Hollington, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, read a letter under a single spotlight reflecting on King's imprisonment inside a Birmingham Jail.
McElrath, the event's feature speaker, touched on several themes including consciousness, history, duty, and honor.
"We have always looked at civil rights in small portions rather than seeing the big picture. It's not just about fair housing. It's not just about employment opportunity. It's not just about your rights. It's about respect," McElrath said. "No matter what your differences are, no matter what color your skin is, no matter what sex you are, [civil rights] is about respect for people. Dr. King believed in respecting people and people learning to respect one another."
After McElrath's speech, Capt. Eddie Porter, 16th MP Brigade, recited King's "I Have a Dream" speech, for which the audience gave a standing ovation.