Panzer Kaserne, Germany - The 21st Theater Sustainment Command held its first ever Juneteenth exhibition on Panzer Field, Panzer Kaserne, Germany, July 14. The exhibition aimed to educate Soldiers and civilians while celebrating the powerful history behind Juneteenth.
"Juneteenth represents not only the commemoration of the end of slavery in America more than 150 years ago, but the ongoing work to bring true equity and racial justice into American society." -Joe Biden, President of the United States.
The Juneteenth National Independence Day officially became the 11th federal holiday in 2021 and is the first new federal holiday since the recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in 1983.
The holiday, widely considered the longest-running African American holiday, can date early celebrations back to 1866. Originating in the city of
Galveston, Texas, early celebrations began as church-centered community gatherings due to the prohibition of African Americans using public facilities.
Brig. Gen. Ronald Ragin, the commanding general of the 21st TSC,
Kaiserslautern, Germany, also spoke to those in attendance at the
"Understanding the history is hugely important, because all were not free at one point. And that's the reality of it," said Ragin. "It's about passing the baton to the next generation and making the next generation better than this generation."
Juneteenth recognizes the end of slavery and extends to African Americans the nation's promise of freedom and liberty.
The Army played a fundamental role in securing the freedoms of 250,000 black slaves in Texas when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of slavery.
"Think about the history and the role of the United States Army in that history, and how the United States Army ensured the President's directives were actually executed," said Ragin. "That's what you are. You are a part of history."
While the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Lincoln, legally freed slaves throughout the Confederate States, Texas resisted for two years. Granger assumed command over the Military District of Texas and established military control, issuing General Order No. 3, formally enforcing provisions of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas for the first time.
For the Army, Juneteenth honors African American Soldiers who fought and sacrificed to ensure the Constitution fulfilled its promise to all Americans.
"I want you to go back and think about each one of those photos that you saw there," said Ragin. "Think about the history."
The courageous, selfless, and dedicated service by African American Soldiers in units like the XXV Corps and 10th Colored Infantry helped cement the gains provided by the Civil War and opened the door to widespread military service for African American men for the first time in American history.
"When I put this uniform on, I represent us, a profession. A profession,
that is a part of an institution that ensured that slavery ended, which is really powerful when you think about it," said Ragin.