CHIEVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – Members of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and SHAPE came together to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during an observance at Chièvres Air Base on Jan. 12.
Hosted by the SHAPE Healthcare Facility, the observance paid tribute to King’s life and enduring impact as a key member of the American civil rights movement.
“[King’s] actions…really changed the world as we see it,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Lime, SHAPE Healthcare Facility physical therapy noncommissioned officer in charge. “As we remember his birthday, let us live up to the standards he held and ensure that his legacy lives on.”
During the event, Robert Whitlow, an employee at the Chièvres Air Base Exchange, described the civil rights advancements he’s seen in the U.S. thanks to King’s legacy. Whitlow was eight years old when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“At a time when my uncles entered the military, they were not able to bunk, bathe or eat with other service members.” said Whitlow. “While I was in the military, I was able to attend a change-of-command ceremony, and at that time [Maj.] Gen. Titus C. Hall took over our base….as a kid growing up during post-segregation that was a huge thing for me to see: a Black general commanding.”
“We’re not a perfect union in America, but we have made so much progress-accelerated progress-in our country,” said Whitlow. “And the world looks at the speed in which we’ve done that.”
The observance was held in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day U.S. federal holiday, which is held on the third Monday of January to commemorate King’s birthday and lifelong commitment to equality and civil rights for all people.
King, a Baptist minister from Memphis, Tennessee, was a major proponent of non-violent resistance and activism in the U.S. civil rights movement. He first rose to prominence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, before becoming a major leader in the movement until his death.
His efforts during his lifetime helped usher in numerous advancements in U.S. civil rights, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and have continued to inspire countless others since then.
While the garrison observance for King was only a one-day event, USAG Benelux Commander Col. Lindsay R. Matthews stressed the importance of honoring his actions throughout the year.
“Today we have the opportunity to share in [King’s] legacy.” said Matthews. “But I charge every single one of you to really spend time, every day, thinking about what this legacy means for you as an individual…your organization, your team, your community.”