MIAMI, Fla. Aca,!" Michele S. Jones claims she never strived to be the first at anything, that she was never even aware being a trailblazer until people pointed it out to her.
Jones brought her engaging and infectious speaking style to U.S. Southern Command Headquarters Feb. 18 as part of the National Black History Month program, entitled Aca,!A"Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas.Aca,!A?
It was here that the first woman class president at the U.S. Sergeants Major Academy, first female division Command Sergeant Major and first CSM of an Army component explained that she felt driven to do her best in the military, because the military was Aca,!A"an environment where we are judged for who we are and what we can do, not how we were born.Aca,!A?
First inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that anything was possible, Jones gravitated to the military, and excelled.
Retired since March 2007, Jones jokingly warned the crowd that sergeants major never forget how to yell, and although she left the stage and walked among the crowd of more than 100, no one seemed to lose interest for a moment.
Jones said that serving her country offered her many opportunities, one of the first was the chance to conquer her biggest fear, that of heights, during jump school. With a huge smile on her face, she relived the feeling of relief and empowerment that becoming a paratrooper gave her.
Her travels in the Army also brought her in contact with other people who Aca,!A"looked like meAca,!A? but lacked the citizenship that provides both the rights and the responsibilities some Americans take for granted, such as fair and equal treatment under the law.
Dr. King Aca,!A"ensured everyone had the right to vote, and fought for the right to fair housing, unfortunately for many black folks, they only heard about the right to remain silent,Aca,!A? she told a laughing crowd of more than 100.
Members of the armed forces have a special interest in voting, she said. Aca,!A"For a Soldier, voting is a very private matter because the winner of a presidential election is their Commander-in-Chief.Aca,!A?
Jones has been recognized as a trailblazer by national figures, and when she was selected to speak at the convention nominating then-Senator Barack Obama, she took it.
Though we now have a black President, Jones feels there is still a need for Black History Month, because people still need to be educated about where black Americans have come from and struggled through. Aca,!A"I had a story to tell, a journey, an opportunity to encourage people to vote, all based on the legacy that someone else left for me.Aca,!A?
Jones left her audience with a challenge to leave behind a better nation.
Aca,!A"What will you do to continue to make this country great'Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I have just words to offer you today, these are words of the heart, they are sincere and they are for you.Aca,!A?