FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 17, 2019) -- "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

These words attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continue to resonate, just as his message of equality and peaceful protest endures today. As guest speaker for the annual MLK observance Jan. 16 at the Commons, U.S. Navy Master Chief Johnny Ford opened his remarks with that quote to remind the Fort Drum community of the truth and power of King's words.

"Today, all across the country, we remember Dr. King," Ford, command climate specialist for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said. "In parades, speeches, schools and churches, people honor his legacy. But it's important to remember he wasn't always so popular. He wasn't seen as a hero by many people during his life."

Ford said that King was seen not only as an activist but an agitator. He stood up to authority and was arrested 29 times. King worked with other civil rights leaders to organize marches and strikes, and they participated in civil disobedience by peacefully protesting against unjust laws and practices.

"Martin Luther King and many others like him fought segregation and discrimination when it was very unpopular and very, very dangerous to do so," Ford said. "He and other civil rights activists fought against inequality at the risk of their own safety. They fought to make sure that equal means equal, justice means justice, and that every citizen is treated fairly."

Ford said that to truly honor the legacy of King everyone must recognize and root out racism wherever it may linger. He said that people can make a difference simply by educating themselves about racism, trying to see things from different perspectives and having an open heart and mind.

"Dr. King and the other leaders of the civil rights movement helped to bring about massive changes in America, but their work was not finished. This is our work, my friends. The time is now, right now. We can't shy away. We can't depend on anyone else to do it. This is our mission, and if we are brave and steadfast - as I know we are - we can all move forward together, as one people."

This year's MLK Jr. Day theme was "The time is always right to do what is right." Sgt. 1st Class James Webb, 10th CAB equal opportunity adviser, said that the purpose of the annual observance is to educate the community about dignity and respect while breaking down false perceptions and stereotypes.

"This theme serves to help address a recurring question that Dr. King would always ask: 'What are you doing for others?' We must ensure we are always doing the right thing and striving to help others," Webb said.

Although the observance was hosted by the aviation brigade, Webb said that it was truly supported by the entire community.

Members of the community contributed to the event, from the brigade's family readiness groups inspirational MLK-themed centerpieces to the posters created by Cub Scout Pack 26 that were displayed outside the ballroom. Additionally, two videos were screened during the observance that featured 10th CAB Soldiers, the division commander, and students and faculty from Copenhagen Central School reciting the words of King.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is commonly known as "A Day On, Not a Day Off" to promote community service. To support that tradition, the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade will host a blood drive with the American Red Cross, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21, outside the Commissary.

"Over 50 years ago, America was captivated by a young, motivated preacher who called a generation into action and epitomized selfless service," Webb said. "As a nation and as a division, we have made significant strides forward, however the work is not yet finished. Again, as we continue to move forward the question is raised: What are you doing for others?"