By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)January 31, 2019
The 2019 Martin Luther King. Jr. birthday observance luncheon was held Jan. 25, and former Fort Jackson commanding general, retired Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner, spoke on the day's theme, "a day on, not a day off."
The NCO Club provided lunch, Blythewood High School's Aca Bengals performed an acapella piece, and the 282nd Army Band played.
Turner was presented with a token of appreciation for his time.
Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, said he "couldn't fight the urge" to personally introduce Turner.
"I knew it was the right thing to do," Beagle said. "General Turner is legendary … he gives freely of himself, and he gives freely of his time."
In King's honor, Turner said it is the community's duty to get involved and do something for the benefit of others.
It took years and "a lot of campaigning," plus the involvement of powerful politicians, sports organizations and entertainers, to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day widely recognized, Turner said.
Former President Ronald Reagan signed it in as a federal holiday in 1983, but some states held off on implementation because it was "too costly."
Arizona was barred from holding the 1993 Super Bowl for refusing to make it a paid holiday.
While all 50 states have since adopted the day of remembrance, Turner urged listeners to "remember and to reflect" on King's work and recommit to racial harmony and peace.
There is more to be done, he said.
Turner looked back on April 4, 1968, when King was assassinated.
He said he remembers hearing about the rioting and looting in the aftermath and seeing pictures in the newspaper the next day showing major U.S. cities "in shambles."
"I remember seeing the tears in the eyes of my mom," he added. "I remember the somberness that had set in" on the school the next day.
He commented that when he walked into his eighth grade classroom April 5, his teacher was still rubbing her eyes from crying throughout the night.
"I also remember what came out of the healing process," Turner said, including the desegregation of his school, among others, a few years later.
Beagle said he recalls hearing stories about the nearly heroic feats of Turner's time as commanding general from 2004 to 2006 that drove him toward the goal of someday taking on the role.
Turner spoke of King's accomplishments.
"What a life he lived … he worked to overcome centuries of oppression," Turner said. "He left a legacy of hope."
During a time when prejudice was rampant in the nation, "(King) started his fight, his campaign, to change the way things were in the nation … anywhere he saw a racial disparity, he was there."
He was there to give speeches and lead protests with nonviolence "squarely at the center … (as) the root" of the movement, Turner said, calling his actions "a sword that heals."
Turner said each Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides an opportunity to recognize the good that King and other civil rights leaders did.
While many offices are closed, it's "a day on, not a day off."