Soldiers, Family members, and personnel celebrated National African American History Month during an observance hosted by Integrated Logistics Support Center (ILSC) on Feb. 20 at the Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC).

This year's theme, "Black Migrations," highlighted the challenges and successes of African Americans from the agricultural South to centers of industry across the United States--especially the migrations that occurred during the twentieth century which reshaped the country's demographic landscape. During this time, African Americans have emerged from discrimination and hardship to inspire confidence and courage in people of all backgrounds.

The event's keynote speaker, Chief Master Sgt. Henry Hayes, Command Chief for the 66th Air Base Group and Hanscom Air Force Base, strayed from tradition lines of thought and history lessons. Hayes, whose father served as an Army drill sergeant, instead drew inspiration from a magazine he read during a flight to Ohio.

"Behind the tray table is the seat pocket and what I see peeking out is the in-flight magazine titled 'American Way' and it got me thinking about the strength of Americans and the way we have gone," said Hayes who continued to find inspiration from articles throughout the magazine. "'Blisters and Beauty' . . . if you endure the blisters you can get to the beauty . . . 'Chasing Adventure in the Grand Canyon' . . . chasing the adventure of next, new, different . . . 'Wrestling with Success' . . . overcoming opposition . . . 'Destinations' . . . where are you going? Where are you trying to go? We're all trying to get somewhere better.

"While looking at any page in this magazine I found something that is applicable to migration. But how do we honor each other and deal with history and heritage and come together as one? Everyone wants the same thing and everyone deserves it.

"Everyone deserves to be DROPKICKed," exclaimed Hayes as he referenced an acronym meant to guide people on how to treat others. "Everybody deserves Dignity, Respect, Opportunity, Praise, Knowledge, Integrity, Calculative engagement, and simple Kindess."

Attendees were treated to a step dance performance from G-Squad, Bedford High School's dance troupe, including members Janie and Janae, daughters of Staff Sgt. Jamar Daniels from U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM). The entertainment continued with musicians David Fuller and Rollins Ross performing an uplifting repertoire that ran the gamut of artists, from The Temptations to Bruno Mars.

Joseph Cooper, Director of ILSC and retired Army Lt. Col., brought the observance to a close and reminisced on the inspiring service and trailblazing career of the late Maj. Gen. Marcelite J. Harris, who was the first black woman to serve as a major general in the U.S. military. "She may not have been a celebrity, but she was a rock star in our business, in our family."

Cooper added, "She and I were very similar, both determined. If anyone were to bring up the difference in race I would say the only difference in color would be that she wore Air Force blue and I wore Army green."

The results of the NSSC food drive, held annually in conjunction with Black History Month, were announced. During the four weeks of the food drive 97 boxes and 42 bags of non-perishable food items were collected.

Anthony Lee from the Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (CCDC) shared a collective appreciation, "Thank you to the volunteers and (Black History Month Program Committee) members who organized this effort, the leaders who set the example and encouraged their teams and employees, and all the participants who made this food charity drive a success. You all represent Team Natick at its finest."