By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public AffairsJanuary 23, 2013
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Federal holidays -- our official bonus days off work and school -- begin to lose their distinction. Workers revel in the long weekend without remembering what the day off is for.
Every year, USAG Grafenwoehr lends weight to the origin of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a commemoration ceremony honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy.
On Jan. 17 at the Grafenwoehr Field House, community members gathered to celebrate the civil rights leader and honor his fight for equality.
The event touted Martin Luther King Jr. Day as "A day on, not a day off." Tamara Stinson, local Operation Rising Star winner, belted the gospel song, "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," bringing audience members to their feet. Wendy Bland recited the poem, "Standing Tall," by Jamie McKenzie, attesting to King's unwavering commitment to his cause.
Sgt. Maj. Chris Dozier, 709th Military Police Battalion, gave the keynote address.
For Dozier, the task of neatly fitting King's vision and success into a 10-minute speech initially proved overwhelming.
"Dr. King, he's obviously one of our greatest civil rights leaders. To do the man justice I thought you really had to look into the history," he said after the ceremony.
Dozier began by touching on the second class citizen status of African Americans in the Jim Crow era who "were faced with the sobering reality that free was not equal."
In spite of these barriers, King achieved immense personal success prior to his role as a civil rights luminary. He achieved two bachelor degrees, a doctorate and a seat on the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People by the age of 26.
"He and his family were blessed to have acquired many of those things that most of us equate with success today," said Dozier. "Having done so, he could have easily developed an isolationist attitude and done nothing, but he didn't and decided that the perceived lack of equality was just as much his problem as anyone else's."
King's dedication to equality extended beyond his own demographic. Dozier said that some people simply chalk up the Civil Rights Movement as a "'black thing,'" but King's intent was to do away with discrimination based on gender, color, creed or origin.
"The true essence of Dr. King's efforts makes equality a 'human thing,' and to attach it to any one group diminishes its true potential."
King's tenacity to keep improving, his fight against complacency still has a place today, said Dozier.
"As long as there is a perception that a glass ceiling exists, there is still work to be done," he said. "A day on, not a day off."