JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from across Joint Base Lewis-McChord gathered together for the JBLM Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at the McChord Field Collocated Club, Jan. 22.

The celebration, hosted by I Corps, 7th Infantry Division and 17th Fires Brigade, reflected on the strides toward equality and peace that King, and others, struggled to achieve.

"Remember, celebrate, act," said Maj. Kevin Bourne, the 17th Fires Bde. adjutant, during the start of the ceremony, stating that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was, "a day on, not a day off." Those words were a constant theme throughout the celebration.

During his opening remarks,Col. Ken Kamper, the 17th Fires Bde. commander, urged the audience to try and imagine the violence and oppression that existed in America not so long ago. He spoke of how the perseverance of King, and other great men and women, were able to change that and how this generation is able to continue King's dream.

The guest speaker at the event, Dr. Maxine Mimms, a lifelong educator and political leader, offered a firsthand perspective of King and the times he lived in.

Mimms' career is rich with achievement, but what wowed the crowd was her charming personality and experience. She knew King and was an active supporter of the civil rights movement. Her activism included participating in the March on Washington, which she described as "frightening but safe at the same time."

She answered questions asked by audience members that wanted to learn and understand more about what activists fought through during the civil rights movement.

Spc. Shanun Seymore, a motor transport operator with 657th Forward Support Company, 5th Battalion (HIMARS), 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Bde., asked Mimms, "Would you say it was worth the struggle you guys endured to see America the way it is today?"

Mimms responded by saying she sometimes feels like she's dreaming because the world today is so different from when the struggle for equality was taking place.

She told Seymore that together they could continue to do well, saying, "With my stories I can help protect you, and with your actions you can help protect me. You have to have a lot of patience with me; the only way that I'm going to live is by telling the stories I have. And I have to have a lot of patience with you, because you have the energy to produce action."

Mimms struggled through a time when soldiers were called upon to intervene in protests by civil rights activists. She said, "I never knew a uniform could protect me," and expressed her gratitude for the Soldiers that protect her now.

Seymore said he was entranced by Mimms' stories. He has family members that lived during the civil rights movement, but said it meant a lot to hear about the history from an activist outside his family.

The ceremony closed shortly after Mimms' spoke to the crowd, but soldiers like Spc. Gerard Gariepy, a targeting specialist with 1st Battalion (155mm Towed), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Bde., continued to appreciate the day with a newfound sense of what it was about.

"It was amazing that [Mimms had] gone through so much and was here to talk to us. It was incredible listening to her talk about the amount of things she'd been through," Gariepy said. "I think this was an excellent way to commemorate the day."