By Spc. Charlene Apatang MendiolaFebruary 26, 2011
Strength, courage, and determination describe the African-American men and women who have struggled and contributed to their success within the U.S. military.
The 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion hosted the Black History Month celebration on Camp Victory, Feb. 16, to highlight the distinguished military heritage of African Americans who
have, since the Civil War, committed themselves to the nation's defense.
Highlights of the 90-minute event included a slideshow presentation of "Little Known Black History Facts," singing of the National Anthem and the Black National Anthem and keynote speaker, Maj. Ericka M. Brooks, executive officer with the 40th ESB.
Brooks, a U.S. Military Academy graduate, remembers a time when her attendance at West Point as an African American female was not an option. My grandfather and all of his brothers were in the military at a time when only whites could be officers, she said. "I am standing here as an officer in a fully integrated unit."
Brooks' accomplishments are not insignificant. Despite the number of military conflicts African Americans were involved in, they were not fully integrated into the U.S. armed forces until 1948.
It is important that history is taught and learned, Brooks said, otherwise past mistakes will be repeated.
Photos of African American heroes such as President Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois hung on the walls, creating a timeline honoring those who lead, overcame, and broke down barriers to make America a nation of unity.
"Dr. Martin Luther King is a remarkable icon," said Sgt. Dustin Leechadwick Yates, a radio and communications security repairer with Company B, 40th ESB. "He is known to be one of the initiators of the civil rights movement who fought for fair treatment and equality for every person
Every ethnicity has played a role in getting where we are today, Brooks said. There are values in people, their culture, traditions and experiences; sharing this helps make U.S. forces much more
"Behind the lines of race, color, or creed, we become a stronger force," said 1st Lt. Anthony Browitt, a battalion maintenance officer with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th ESB. "A force united through common goals and through racial lines makes us the strongest military in the world."
"Black history is a part of American history," said Brooks. "We wouldn't be the America we are today if it weren't for that."