RALEIGH, N.C -- Honoring Black History Month, U.S. Army Forces Commander, Gen. Michael X. Garrett recognized the military service of North Carolina African-American Veterans during a ceremony at the North Carolina Museum of History.
During the 2nd annual N.C. African American Veteran Lineage Day Ceremony, African-American service members who took the oath of enlistment to serve during World War II, and participated in other campaigns such as Korea and Vietnam.
"Today's honorees represent the very best America has to offer," Garrett said, "people who exemplify selfless service, courage, and honor."
Up until 1948, the U.S. military had separate formations based on skin color and gender.
"Consider this," Garrett said, "since the American Revolution, men and women took up arms in defense of their Nation in the face of outright discrimination, and segregation -- because they wanted to make a difference."
They came together in groups like the Buffalo Soldiers, the Marines of the Montford Pointers; the Women Airforce Service Pilots; the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (or United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve); and the Women's Army Corps.
"Now compare that with today: Integration within our formations is the norm," Garrett said. "The rich tapestry of American society is represented throughout our uniformed services and rank, and when you boil it down, that, is the strength of our military."
Garrett noted that segregation in the military wasn't that long ago -- the veterans being honored lived it.
"Their strength of character, steadfast dedication, and inspiring courage -- when our Nation needed it most -- helped turn the tide, from segregation to integration," he said. "It is important that we appreciate the adversity that these men and women overcame. They have built the foundation for all of us who have served since. Today, we stand on their shoulders -- we must build upon their legacy."
While Garrett acknowledged the progress the Army has made, he also said that there is still work to be done.
"Our people are our greatest strength -- and leveraging their diversity gives our Nation a competitive advantage," he said. "As our global responsibilities grow increasingly complex, it is critical that we attract personnel with different experiences and backgrounds."
People are the Army's top priority, and a diverse force directly impacts the Army's readiness.
"As the forces becomes more diverse, the Army will have increasing opportunities to bring new ideas, innovation and expanded capabilities to its formations -- and this translates into increased readiness," Garrett said. "It is our people who provide us with an enduring advantage to remain the world's most ready, lethal, and capable land combat force."
Garrett also recognized the contributions of the honorees, and those they served with … reminding them that their legacy matters.
"Your self-sacrifice and determination ensured that today -- young men and women from all corners of our Nation are able to serve -- in any capacity they choose, regardless of their race and gender -- but rather, their individual willingness and ability."