ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army Soldiers highlighted the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., particularly as they relate to the military, during an observance honoring the civil rights leader here on Jan. 24.

Sgt. Maj. Dwayne Cook of the First Army Operations, Plans, and Training Directorate, served as guest speaker. Cook used his speech to reflect on how his hometown of Detroit both struggled and succeeded with the notions of racial justice and equal opportunity, while noting how the military embraced diversity since his birth in 1969.

"Dr. King had been assassinated the year before," Cook said of his birth-year. "Some feared what it might mean for the civil rights movement. Would the dream die with him?"

Growing up, Cook failed to comprehend it all.

"I remember very little, if any, focus on Dr. King as I went through school. But I can tell you with certainty that I felt the impact of Dr. King on me and my family's life."

Cook spoke about serving under former First Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, whose grandfathers had served in segregated First Army units during World War II.

"He often said how proud they would have been to see three stars pinned on his chest and take command of the very formation in which they were once treated as inferior Soldiers," Cook said of Twitty.

Cook summarized the day's theme by noting that if King could see today's Army, he would be proud of the progress toward individuals being judged by the content of their character.

"He would honor the fact that a black kid from inner city Detroit achieved great things in an Army that only two generations ago made black Soldiers serve in segregated units. He would applaud that in every headquarters on this island, black men and women sit in the highest position, influence policy, set examples, serve as mentors and are making a difference."