Diversity celebrated at FLKS Heritage Month observance

By Prudence Siebert - Fort Leavenworth Lamp EditorJune 27, 2024

Juneteenth Discussion
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Williams, Medical Department Activity, talks about the history of Juneteenth with Marcela Aquirre and her 15-year-old son Aiden Calderon, members of the Kansas City, Kansas-based Mexican folkloric dance group Itsi Asuli, during the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Army Heritage Month observance and diversity fair June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army Heritage Month Observance
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Thirteen-year-old Mya Huewitt and 15-year-old Jordan Dulaney, event greeters, sample foods such as Nigerian fried rice, tres leches and pani popo during the Army Heritage Month Observance and Diversity Fair June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL
Arthur McClendon Jr.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Arthur McClendon Jr., cashier and customer service representative at Envision Xpress, performs the national anthem before speakers’ remarks at the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Army Heritage Month Observance and Diversity Fair June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL

Diversity was the focus of the Army Heritage Month observance and fair June 25 at the Frontier Conference Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Tables laden with information and displays related to what were once monthly observances filled the ballroom, with ethnic food tastings during the event and speakers offering their takes on diversity.

“This month gives us the opportunity to not only commemorate our past achievements, but to recognize the resilience and sacrifice that shapes our Army and pay tribute to our veterans whose selfless service has preserved the ideals on which our nation was founded,” narrator Staff Sgt. Abigael Santos, Medical Department Activity, told those gathered to hear speakers’ remarks.

Howie Brewington 1
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Army Heritage Month Observance and Diversity Fair speaker Howard Brewington, deputy director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, delivers remarks at the observance June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL
Howie Brewington
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Army Heritage Month Observance and Diversity Fair speaker Howard Brewington, deputy director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, asks the audience questions about their upbringing and experiences during his remarks at the observance June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL

Speaker Howard Brewington, deputy director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, is a member of the Coharie Tribe who grew up in North Carolina and now has a small farm in Tonganoxie, Kansas. Dressed in his overalls and John Deere cap, he told the audience that during his interactive remarks, they were going to talk about who they are and why what they do matters.

“Somebody told me once in my life ‘You gotta be who you are,’ because if you be who you are, then everybody knows who you are; if you try to be something you’re not, then you just come across looking fake and phony.”

Brewington asked the audience to raise their hands accordingly as he asked questions about who grew up in the country or city; who remembered pay phones and dial-up internet; who were first-generation Americans; who were veterans of Urgent Fury (1983 invasion of Grenada), Operation Just Cause (1989-90 invasion of Panama) and of other more recent operations; among other demographic- and experience-related questions.

“As I saw those hands go up, there is a lot of diversity in this room — diversity of background, diversity of experience, diversity of thought,” Brewington said.

He said the sort of questions he asked can help people think about where they are in their lives, who they are and why that matters.

“We talked about where we came from, we talked about who we were, who we are leading up to our time in service to some of the things we’ve done in service to our country, but who are we?” Brewington asked. “We are members of the Army profession. We have chosen to serve something larger than ourselves, and if necessary, to lay down our lives in that service.”

Brewington said that service to the nation is Army professionals’ highest priority, and the foundation of the Army’s relationship with the American people is trust.

“Our professional responsibility, members of the Army profession, is to protect that trust — to protect it, to preserve it, to earn it every day in what we do.”

He said mutual trust within the profession, and as families, builds cohesive teams.

“It’s necessary for the Army to have that (trust) to be able to fulfill its strategic role and discharge its responsibility to the nation,” he said.

Brewington described Army professionals as honorable servants, Army experts and stewards of the profession.

“What you do every day for our country matters, so thank you for what you do.”

Brewington said walking through the observance month displays in the ballroom offered the opportunity to pause and reflect on diversity, but also what we in common.

“We take time to pause and highlight and honor our diversity, spend some time thinking about, talking about, reflecting on the things that make us different, and we highlighted some of those this morning. But what do we do the rest of the time? The rest of the time we focus on the things that make us the same – our profession, our ethic, our values, our Army culture,” he said. “There’s none like it in the world, and, man, I just wake up every day thankful that I have the privilege to one, serve the country, and to number two, work with great Army professionals, members of the Army profession, that I get to work with every day.”

MAJ Kara Corcoran
Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Army Heritage Month Observance and Diversity Fair speaker Maj. Kara Corcoran, School of Advanced Military Studies student, recounts the history of equality in the military during her remarks June 25, 2024, at the Frontier Conference Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp (Photo Credit: Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp) VIEW ORIGINAL

Speaker Maj. Kara Corcoran, School of Advanced Military Studies student, read from a paper she wrote, “U.S. Military Forges Equality and Respect,” to share lessons to be learned from the past.

“The U.S. military historically forged the way for equality in the crucible of combat, creating stronger bonds in the furnace of American society… Today the U.S. Army soldiers continue to forge the camaraderie of trust through stewardship of the profession, training and the Army value of respect,” Corcoran said as she began her remarks.

“Throughout history, the American military forged the beginnings of respect for marginalized demographics,” she reiterated toward the end of her remarks. “In most cases the U.S. military upheld a higher code of ethics and morality that paved equality for the rest of American society, yet awareness of previous transgressions toward each other provides context to any diverse organization.”

Through the reading of her paper, Corcoran painted a picture of human rights evolution through the years, and said the military, like all organizations, still has room to improve.

“To create further change, we must understand the problem. The first step toward understanding is knowledge, through history, and it will allow us to evaluate programs within our organizations to create positive change.”

Corcoran cited examples to illustrate the U.S. military’s racial and gender equality failings and progress through several generations. These evolutions have meant policy changes and more equal treatment and opportunities for African Americans and women, and greater acceptance and understanding of differing sexual orientation and gender identity. Corcoran pointed out areas that are still lacking, such as providing necessary health care and other support for transgender service members.

Corcoran serves as the vice president of SPARTA Pride, an organization that provides support and advocacy for transgender service members and veterans.

According to Corcoran’s biography on the SPARTA Pride website, “policy changes forced her to begin transition during an inopportune time in her life as a ban on trans-inclusive service was enacted in March of 2018. She was able to be exempt of this policy within days before the ban began and spent the next several years continuing her fight for Army soldiers and all transgender service members. She continues to mentor junior female officers in maneuver branches, advocate for transgender service members, and continues to support soldiers, providers and commanders with advice in the transition process.”

Corcoran said she has supported more than 200 transitioning soldiers as they have navigated the waver and policy changes.

“Today an estimated 15,000 transgender service members are across the entire U.S. military,” she said, noting that many transgender, gay and lesbian service members are still afraid to come out.

She told the audience to revisit empathy.

“If things in question are deeply repulsive by one’s sensibilities to one’s own beliefs or desires, then we have a feeling that is troubling and it is harder to empathize and understand another person’s experience because there is no baseline for underlying empathy.”

Corcoran said the Combined Arms Center embodies the 2024 Pride Month theme, “Pride in All Who Serve/A Place For All,” and said she was grateful for the chance to speak.

“As leaders of an organization look back on history and craft a more productive future, just as the Army continues to align its stated values with policies, continually reassess your equality programs, allow our institutions to come together in achieving America’s vision of liberty and justice for all, and never forget our oath to the U.S. Constitution.”

She said equality training programs often don’t include any of the associated history.

“To increase effectiveness, we must embody humility by accepting this history and understanding it is part of our heritage as an Army, that these demographics were fought alongside everyone, and we … came together, so we have to better understand our heritage on (Army) Heritage Day.”

Corcoran said military leaders can help foster positive change through example.

“The nation was founded on the ideal that we are all created equal. In the Army, each is judged by the content of their character. Army leadership could consistently foster a climate that treats everybody with dignity and respect, regardless of their ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, creed or religious beliefs. Fostering a positive climate begins with the leaders’ personal example — leaders treat others, including adversaries, with respect.”

Corcoran said diversity is the nation’s strength.

“When we come together for a common purpose, in the face of an ever-increasing hostile global operating environment, it is our heritage that we all stand ready to fight, and if need be, die in defense of the cherished institutions of America,” she said.

Prior to the speakers, Arthur McClendon Jr., cashier and customer service representative at Envision Xpress, performed the national anthem.

The diversity fair portion of the observance featured a performance by Mexican folkloric dance group Itsi Asuli and informational tables on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January), Black History Month (February), Women’s History Month (March), Days of Remembrance (April 24 to May 1 to honor and remember victims and liberators of the Holocaust), Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May), Pride Month (June), Juneteenth (June 19), Women’s Equality Day (Aug. 26, celebrating the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote), National Hispanic Heritage Month (mid-September to mid-October), National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), and National American Indian Heritage Month (November).