By Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith, Fort Carson MountaineerJanuary 29, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo.---Every year Soldiers and civilians alike take time to remember a man known to most as one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all time. Fort Carson is no exception to this tradition.
On Jan. 19, the Fort Carson Equal Opportunity Program hosted what was called "a day on, not a day off," at the Elkhorn Conference Center. Members of the community came out to spend time reflecting on the words and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the accomplishments of many other African American heroes of the past.
"First and foremost, Dr. Martin Luther King was a preacher ... and was on the kings' highway to becoming just as good a preacher as his father when he was called on another path," said Rosemary Harris Lytle, president, Colorado Springs Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and event guest speaker. "It was a path that he didn't ask for, we have to remember that it was a path that he didn't plan for, but one to which he was called."
As Lytle recited words from King's famous "I have a dream" speech, the atmosphere seemed electric, with audience members nodding their heads, applauding and voicing their approval and agreement of his words by saying "amen."
The focus of the day was not just on King, but on the message that he had for the country and his vision for a more united nation. Lytle spoke of many other African-American heroes from the past who answered the call to service before King.
"I find great leaders of military service who were called into service and who said, 'send me,'" said Lytle. "As we come forward in history, we can all be proud of other brave and courageous Americans that answered the call."
She went over the accolades of historical African-Americans like Harriet Tubman, who was known as the Moses of her people; Peter Salem, who was at the front lines of the Battle of Bunker Hill; and the Tuskegee Airmen, who were America's first black Airmen; as well as the tens of thousands of African-Americans that volunteered for military service when their country called for their support.
"I do know this, that Dr. King would be proud of us today," Lytle said in her closing remarks. "Women and men, white, black, Latino, Asian, native, brothers and sisters from around the way, from around the corner, from around the globe, together in this one room. We must continue together."
The Rev. Dennis Mose and Friends vocal group, all members of various churches, took the stage and paid tribute to King in their own way. They energetically engaged the audience with a medley of inspirational songs, sung a cappella, while the guests clapped and swayed along to the melodies created by the vocalists.
"Dr. Martin Luther King did give his life serving others, and breaking social barriers to move our nation closer to the vision of his beloved community," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bryant, coordinator for the event. A tape was then played of Dr. King's last sermon, just two days before his fateful assassination.
Brig. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy commanding general for support, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, talked about the military's role in leading the way for the country in the integration of African-Americans.
"I'm proud to be in the Army on a day like today ... just a little over 50 years ago, President Truman signed in the integration of the armed services. And I think the Army led society in a lot of aspects," Pasquarette said, "We've gone from a country that was oceans of ignorance ... to where we are today, where it's kind of inverse. There's oceans of enlightenment out there, everybody's on a team."
After a benediction, guests were able to mingle and enjoy a sampling of traditional southern foods as the event to honor a great American came to a close. It would seem that most would say King's death was tragic, but his message of unity is one that will live forever.