REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- Team Redstone celebrated African-American History Month Feb. 28 with guest speaker Harvey Alston, the Oakwood University Aeolians choir, traditional Southern food samples by K'ala Makes It Special catering and the announcement of the essay, static display and art contests winners.

Black History Month, also known as National African-American History Month, is an annual celebration of the achievements of African-Americans and is a time for recognizing the central role they have played in our nation's history.

Pat Mason, deputy program executive officer for aviation, welcomed Team Redstone to the program held in Bob Jones Auditorium following a moving performance of the national anthem by PEO Aviation's Hiedi Frazier.

"Each February, for the past 42 years we have paused to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and history of African-Americans to this nation," Mason said. "It is incumbent on all of us to reflect on where we have been and where we have come as a nation, as a society and as an Army."

Col. John Jones, Redstone Test Center commander and co-host with Mason for the program, introduced Alston describing him as someone who "strives to passionately bring out the best in people."

"In today's address you will hear that theme echoed as he talks about great African-Americans in their pursuit at being the best," Jones added.

This year's national theme, "African-Americans in Time of War," commemorates the centennial of the end of World War I in 1918 and highlights the service and sacrifice of African-Americans during wartime from the Revolutionary War to present day.

"Today is a celebration about the contributions of African-Americans, but even more than that, it's for us to go back and educate other people so they know from where they came," Alston said. "... So they can be proud about who they are and continue to make a contribution and an impact in America."

Alston's presentation included historical photos of African-Americans serving in segregated units from the Civil War, the Indian Wars' Buffalo Soldiers, World War I's Harlem Hellfighters and WWII's Tuskegee Airmen. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, calling for equal opportunity for all members of the armed forces ending a segregated Army.

"We need make sure our generation's children remember the accomplishments of the past," he said.

Alston's message focused on being the best example for others through positive thinking, teamwork, setting manageable goals, taking ownership and being self-aware.

"Take responsibility for every action in our life," Alston said. "If you go around complaining about your life and the people around you, maybe you're not making the best choices."

Alston closed his remarks with a poem often shared by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

"If you can't be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley - but be the best little scrub on the side of the hill.

"If you can't be the highway then just be a trail; If you can't be the sun be a star; It isn't by size that you win or fail - Be the very best of whatever you are."

Following Alston's presentation, Team Redstone essay winners were announced and presented with a certificate of appreciation and MWR bucks: first place, Capt. Aaron Brown, 2nd Recruiting Brigade; second, Stefan Henderson, Army Materiel Command; and third, Blake Wells, RTC.

The Team Redstone display winners received a certificate of appreciation, and included: first place, Corps of Engineers; second, Garrison; and third, Space and Missile Defense Command. Area high, middle and elementary school students along with students from Redstone's Child, Youth and After School Programs were also awarded a certificate of appreciation for their art contributions.

The program closed with a final performance by the Aeolians choir singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Team Redstone members in attendance stood and joined in for the historical spiritual song, also known as the black national anthem.