FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 18, 2019) -- To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, held a ceremony Jan. 17 in McGinnis-Wickam Hall.

The keynote speaker, Danny R. Whitehead, a field construction manager and budgeting representative for the Directorate of Public Works at Fort Benning, recited King's final speech "I've been to the Mountaintop." Whitehead served with the Army for 20 years and retired as a sergeant first class 18 years ago.

Before he delivered the speech, Whitehead told the audience of Soldiers and civilians about his own personal connection to King's final speech and the assassination that took place the following day in Memphis, Tennessee. Whitehead lived with his Family in Memphis at the time.

"Growing up in that community as a little boy at the tender age of 5, there was two things that were distinct to me on that day that had me venture to study this great man," said Whitehead. "One was my Family and the adults running in the streets with tears in their eyes. The other was a voice - that I do not know who it came from - and it said, 'They done killed him; they didn't have to kill him.'"

"And so this morning, it is my task to take you back to April 3, 1968, on a rainy night in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple," continued Whitehead, "where a young 39-year-old with tears and watery eyes and the weight of the world on his shoulder, walked up to the podium, and he said this ..."

What followed was a shortened version of King's speech. Whitehead's version hit much of the rhetoric and storytelling of the original, including King's "mental flight" through the progression of civil rights from ancient Egypt, Renaissance Europe, and 19th and 20th century America; including the story King told of his stabbing in 1958; including King's retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan; and, of course, ending where King's speech ended.

"'I just want to do God's will,'" Whitehead quoted King. "'And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know today [sic], that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy today [sic]. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!'"

After Whitehead's recital, the sergeant major of the 194th Armored Brigade, Sgt. Maj. Mark L. Daniel, presented Whitehead with a plaque in gratitude for Whitehead's participation in the ceremony.

To see more photos from the event, visit www.fortbenningphotos.com/Ceremonies-and-Events/Off-Post-Events/2019-Community-Events/2019-01-17-MCoE-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Observance.