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Fort Benning observed Black History Month Thursday in Derby Auditorium. The guest speakers were Isaiah Hugley, Columbus city manager, and Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, Fort Benning garrison commander.
There was also a performance by children from Pinehurst Christian School.
Hugley paid tribute to the slaves, the activists Soldiers and martyrs paved the way for freedom.
(They) lived and died so that black Americans could have freedom and enjoy the life that we do today, he said. They fought the fight, kept the faith they didnt get weary. They sat in, they kept pushing, they stood up and they called out for equal treatment under the law. They helped to make this great country what it is today. We owe it to them to look back and thank them for the journey.
In 1988, Hugley became the first African-American appointed as the director of the Department of Transportation/METRA, and in 1995 was the first African-American to be deputy city manager for day-to-day operations. He is also the first African-American to hold his current position.
After the many struggles of African-Americans over the past several hundred years, there is still more to be done, Hugley said after giving an overview of history of African-Americans in the U.S.
This is America, he said, and in American there is no limit to what we can do.
Fletcher detailed his family history with the military beginning with his grandfather, father and older brother and the impact the Army had on his life, including the many opportunities he had even before entering into the Army himself.
The Department of Defense schools at Fort Leavenworth gave me exposure to children and Families of different cultures and backgrounds. And I learned to be very comfortable around and accepting of others who didnt look like me, he said. In short, I learned to be colorblind at a very crucial and informative period of my childhood.
The ceremony concluded with a dedication by Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Fort Bennings commanding general and an unveiling of a portrait of Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers by Jody Harmon, art director for Armor Magazine and illustrator for the Armor School. Harmon and Fort Benning Command Sgt. Maj. James Carabello unveiled the portrait.
Rivers was an African-American Soldier who was part of the 761st Tank Battalion (Colored). He was killed in action in 1944 and received the Medal of Honor posthumously.