African American History Month is an annual observance to honor African Americans and the sacrifices these individuals made to bring "U.S." together.
Scholars acknowledge two reasons for this historic observance: recognition of advocates sacrifices and the importance of their commitment to improving humanity as a whole.
It is imperative to take a moment to reflect on the legacies and contributions advocates have had on American history, because those who have gone before us continue to pave the way today.
"As we celebrate and acknowledge the sacrifices, contributions and achievements of African Americans this month, let us remember regardless of race, creed or color we are all critical members of our Army team," said Maj. Gen. Clement S. Coward Jr., the commanding general (CG) for 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC). "We must work together to ensure equality for all."
During Black History Month, the theme is "African Americans and the Vote," with emphasis on "At the ballot box, everybody is equal."
"This year marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote after the Civil War, an integral part of our American history," Coward expressed. "Our history could not be told without the stories of those African Americans who have paved the way for all of us to succeed."
Past and present leaders of African descent have and continue to make an impact and this month, 32d AAMDC celebrates the achievements of Coward, the first African American CG to lead the organization.
Another achievement took place February 2, 2020 when Gen. Michael Garrett, U.S. Army Forces Command Commanding General, pinned Coward's two-star rank on him during his promotion ceremony held at the FORSCOM Marshall Hall Headquarters on Fort Bragg.
African Americans who currently defend our nation have inspired future generations to come and this recent commemoration allows for a chance to reflect on the contributions Coward has given to the Army over the past 30 years.
"I never thought I would have the rank I have today," said Coward. "It's beyond my wildest dreams. I have enjoyed what I have done over these 30 years."
Coward said his aspirations came from following his parent's footsteps. After growing up on an Air Force base in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he knew then he would serve in the military.
"You have to remain humble," Coward added. "You treat every promotion as if it's your last."
Coward inculcated his top three sayings that he has stood by throughout his career: don't forget where you have come from, treat people how you want to be treated and be professional.
"Each time I am promoted, I never forget where I have come from," Coward stated. "I have never treated a person different from the next. I talk to a four-star general the same way I talk to a private. That's just treating them like the professionals they are, with the dignity and respect that they deserve."
The well-rounded leader demonstrates what the U.S. Army is dedicated to, and that is leveraging the strength of a diverse force and ensuring equality for all of its service members.
"I feel proud about continuing to serve," Coward articulated. "I consider it a privilege. I feel proud that my childhood roots started and developed from living in North Carolina around a military base, which influenced my decision to serve. This is something that no one can take away from me."
Army policies have improved over his years of service and today they continue to evolve to ensure everyone has equal opportunities.
"Embracing and celebrating diversity makes our Army stronger," said Coward. "We honor the fearless individuals who have defended our nation."
The Army implements diversity to maximize individual talent, increase morale and enhance military effectiveness.
Carter G. Woodson, an American historian and one of the first scholars to study the history of the African diaspora said, "If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated."
So, as we continue to celebrate, remember to believe, respect, encourage, dream, educate, strengthen and change yourself and those around you.
Never forget to keep love, peace, faith, dignity, justice, equality, compassion, loyalty, solidarity and freedom. This is what brings "U.S." together.