By SGT Jesica GeffreJanuary 20, 2010
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -U.S. KFOR Servicemembers here marked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day by participating in events held to honor the civil rights leader's historic legacy.
Despite the less than ideal conditions of cool temperatures and light, snowy precipitation, close to 100 members of Multi-National Task Force-East (MNTF-E) in Kosovo took on and conquered a five-kilometer (just over three miles) Fun Run the morning of Jan. 18.
The Equal Opportunity Advisor for MNTF-E, Sgt. 1st Class Lori D. Johnson, Moorhead, Minn., helped coordinate the commemorative ceremony. She said it is important to remember the injustices King fought against to work toward his goal of freedom, equality and dignity of all races and people. Johnson said his message of change through nonviolence should always be remembered.
"Martin Luther King set the stage for me to have the position I do today because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," Johnson said. "This means the U.S. Army will provide equal opportunity and fair treatment for military personnel and family members without regard to race, color, gender, religion, national origin and provide and environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior."
A ceremony was held at Audie Murphy Medal of Honor Hall to celebrate the life and fellowship of family and to honor King, who the event organizers describe as a "herald for humanity."
Cpl. Emanuel Stephens, Brandon, Fla., acted as master of ceremonies. He said that King is a personal hero and a symbolic icon with a universal message to people.
"Look how far we've come," Stephens said. "I can't think of a better place to remember this gentleman than here where his message is needed. We do our mission and they see different races, colors and genders among us working together and we can be role models and examples for positive change."
An invocation at the ceremony was given by Chaplain Anthony Williams, Mt. Vernon, Ill. Readings from King's biography and quotes from him were read at the ceremony while iconic images of King played across a projector screen in the background.
Special music was performed by the Camp Bondsteel Choir between the readings.
Chaplain Maury Millican, Bismarck, N.D., gave remarks on King's life and emphasized the purpose of King's day was to commemorate it with admiration for King's courage and to ask what differences you have made and are capable of making.
"Dr. King was hunted and harassed and discouraged, and it takes a lot of strength to deal with that and carry on spreading a message that some people did not want to hear," Millican said. "Dr. King followed the Army Value of selfless service; he was a young man when he was tasked with such great leadership."
Millican emphasized celebrating the day is not for only one ethnic group, but all, and he encouraged troops to live by the Golden Rule of "doing unto others as you would have done to you." The third major point Millican made was to incorporate King's message.
Millican hopes this day of recognition will bring about a greater appreciation for equality of all people and how this American holiday helps us understand our mission here. He said he is impressed with King's powerful message and that we need to keep living it today.
Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, MNTF-E's commander, spoke of King's message having a place in our mission.
"Dr. King's message is relevant to our position here in Kosovo," Dohrmann said. "Multi-National Task Force-East is a collection of many states and territories and other countries that interact with the nations of NATO here as well as the varied ethnicities in Kosovo. His legacy gives us hope that what occurred in the U.S. can work here in Kosovo."
The day's events were followed up by a performance by the Good Glory gospel quintet. The Camp Bondsteel Gospel Choir warmed up the crowd and the Good Glory group joined with them briefly and then began their own performance on stage at the Southtown Fitness Center.
Millican said the performance was great and he felt that the day was a beneficial one that accomplished its purpose of celebrating a great man and emphasizing the relevance of his message to the work of Soldiers here.
"When we live out the message of equality inside the wire, when we go out we are sending that message to the people here." Millican said. "They have the freedom to choose their attitude each day. They make the choice, and we demonstrate to them it is possible."