CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 20, 2018) - The U.S. Army 78th Signal Battalion hosted Camp Zama's 2018 Black History Month Observance Feb. 15 at the Community Recreation Center. The theme was "African Americans in Times of War."
The program began with a video presentation, highlighting the progress African Americans have made serving in the Army and military at large.
The ceremony continued with "I Am", which included several Soldiers from 78th SB delivering monologues of unsung heroes who served in the military during times of war.
Staff Sgt. Nicole Johnson portrayed Harriet M. Waddy, one of the two highest-ranking black officers in the Women's Army Corps during World War II and its wartime adviser on racial issues.
Then, Pfc. Kevin Hooks depicted Martin Robison Delany, who became the first African American to be commissioned to the rank of major, serving the Union in the Civil War.
Finally, Staff Sgt. Michael Hall acted as Vernon Baker, who was the only living black veteran awarded the Medal of Honor. Baker received this honor in 1996, along with six other African American recipients being recognized posthumously, from then President Bill Clinton decades later for their valor in the Army during WWII.
The program climaxed to the introduction of keynote speaker Sgt. Maj. Barbara O'Hara, assistant inspector general for U.S. Army Japan.
A skit on stage followed, depicting one of O'Hara's grandfathers, who served in WWII, having a conversation with his sons (her uncles) to express concerns about their interests in joining the military based on his oppressive experiences.
O'Hara began her remarks by telling the audience about both her grandfathers' experiences.
"William Lee O'Hara and Walter Joseph Paschall - my grandfathers - served in WWII," O'Hara said. "They served the country when systemic racism was overt and when black troops were treated as second class citizens."
O'Hara went on to talk about the contributions of African Americans to America's wars, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s.
"We are here today in part because of African American troops ... they taught Americans what it means to be an American - no matter the color of your skin."
"The achievements of African Americans to the cause of freedom resonate across more than two centuries and provide a heroic page in every chapter of American history."
O'Hara concluded her message by encouraging everyone to reject any forms of discrimination, including being based on race, religion or color.
"Today's Army is all about skill set. We do not care about the color of a person's skin. It's all about a person's mind ... the Army is one big melting pot with one mission - defeating the enemy."