Perfectly positioned behind the podium, retired Brig. Gen. Earl Simms spoke of a time when his greatness was celebrated by segregation.

He was surrounded by colleagues and admirers, all of whom were in attendance with the purpose of celebrating the accomplishments of two individuals; Simms, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"I understand what it meant to go to the back of the restaurant to pick up your food," Simms said as servers floated through the banquet hall refilling water glasses during the Jan. 19 Martin Luther King Jr. observance at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, hosted by 193rd Infantry Brigade. Simms recalled moments from his childhood when family travel was void of fancy restaurant stops because packed lunches eaten on the side of the road was a sign of the times; not an alternative.

Using experience to highlight the prominence of progression, Simms provided the secret to his success, "you're looking at an individual who experienced growing up in a segregated school
system, by the ninth grade and the rest of my career obviously integration had occurred and I reaped the benefits from that. One of the things that I learned through that process was, 110 percent equals 100 percent."

His one request to all in attendance was that "we understand that we are all the same under our skin, we all bleed red and we are all Americans."