ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The APG community paused to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during an observance Jan. 19.

The community event honoring the slain civil rights leader is an annual APG tradition. This year the event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program featured remarks by retired Gen. Dennis Via, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Via was the first African American from Virginia promoted to four-star general and the first Signal Corps officer to achieve that rank in the history of the Army.

Retired Gen. Dennis Via, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, gives the keynote speech during a virtual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Jan. 19.
Retired Gen. Dennis Via, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, gives the keynote speech during a virtual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Jan. 19. (Photo Credit: Video Screenshot) VIEW ORIGINAL

CECOM Chaplain (Col.) Steven Moser gave the invocation. Moser said King was a leader who advocated for nonviolent resistance. He advocated for communities united by inclusion.

“In his sermons and speeches Dr. King’s voice rang out powerfully with a call for us to work together for a better tomorrow,” he said.

Moser said MLK Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service.

Many people pay tribute to the civil rights leaders by volunteering.

“These small acts of service spark great change,” he said.

APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo welcomes virtual attendees during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Jan. 19.
APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo welcomes virtual attendees during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Jan. 19. (Photo Credit: Video Screenshot) VIEW ORIGINAL

APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo welcomed the virtual attendees. He said King’s message is vital today, as our nation faces many challenges of economic, social and political upheaval.

“There has never been a more critical time to rededicate ourselves to Dr. King’s values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, respect, humility and service,” he said. “It’s a time to reflect on where we have been as a nation and reflect on where we desire to be.”

Kilgo said the Army has the opportunity to model King’s message of equality.

“The U.S. military is the largest employer of minority groups in our nation,” he said. “We have the opportunity to always lead the way and set the example. We do it in conflict and it shouldn’t be any different at home.”

Champion for Equality

Via called King a “role model of leadership, character, compassion, selflessness and sacrifice.” He shared the story of his family’s visit to MLK Jr.’s childhood home and his gravesite at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia. During this visit, he said he reflected on where his family would be without King’s fight for equality.

“All he stood for and died for provided the very foundation for everything for my family and everything we have benefited from in this country,” he said. “And which my sons benefit from even to this day.”

Via said King’s dream changed America in a way no leader has since President Abraham Lincoln.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought hope and healing in America through the power of his voice and the truth in his words,” he said. “His life informs us and his truth sustains us.”

According to Via, we should take comfort and strength in King’s own words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Via challenged attendees to think about improving equality for all Americans and avoiding the temptation to become cynical or be guilty of inflammatory rhetoric.

“Today, I encourage all of us to look forward, not backwards,” he said. “And to visualize a better America, a more inclusive America.”

The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, workforce has more than 21,000 military, civilian and contractor employees responsible for numerous technical achievements across a broad spectrum of military capabilities. If a Soldier uses a piece of technology for protection, intelligence, to shoot, to move or to communicate chances are it was developed, tested and fielded by an APG organization.