The Bayonet

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

Post marks Black History Month with observance

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“What will your legacy be?”

It was a simple question posed by Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Green at the 2014 Fort Benning African-American/Black History Month Observance Feb. 20, inside McGinnis-Wickham Hall’s Derby Auditorium.

Green, the event’s guest speaker and the command sergeant major for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team spoke to this year’s theme “Civil Rights in America,” and what the Civil Rights Movement meant for the nation and the force that protects it.

The event brought more than 200 Soldiers, civilians and community leaders together to pay tribute to the legacy of African-American heroes who helped paved the way for the present-day freedoms.

“That legacy is defined by great hardships and great triumphs. A legacy made strong through bonds of family and communities working together for a common goal, and it is a legacy of people who understood what it is to have to fight for what you believe in,” the Oakland, Calif., native said.

“It’s important to remember and pay respect to this legacy because it’s built on a foundation of a people so strong that no matter the odds they would not be defeated.”

Green said those in attendance — some who participated in the civil rights movement, some who remember it, and some who may have been too young — are a representation of that legacy.

When the nation confronted discrimination and racism, the struggle for fair treatment was fought in every corner of American society, Green said.

“Even in our military, the Army acted as one of the main components of change, while being one of the first organizations to demand integration,” Green said. “But even the Army had its times of discrimination, and it took bold people standing up for their beliefs to clear the way.”

Throughout history, African-Americans have played a vital — although sometimes shadowed — role in the military.

The Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers may come first to the minds of many when recalling African-Americans serving, but Green encouraged the audience to not forget the lesser-known heroes in the fight: the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, who fought in the Civil War; the Hell Fighters of Harlem, who fought with the French in the muddy trenches of World War I; and the Triple Nickels of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black airborne unit during World War II.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III; Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno; and Secretary of the Army, Honorable John M. McHugh, reiterated the great doings of the African-Americans who fought in battle.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the crescendo of this country’s struggle to make America a better place for all citizens. The Armed Forces served as a catalyst for these and many other events set in motion by the 1948 presidential order to desegregate the military,” read the signed tri-fold letter sent across the force. “These advancements in civil rights have enabled us to field a diverse force defined by notable character. Together, the Total Army has earned America’s trust as the “Strength of the Nation,” and, in doing so, we all serve honorably to contribute to global stability and a better world.”

As he closed his remarks, Green offered a call to action.

“I would encourage you today while honoring the legacy of all of those who fought against injustice to look deeply into yourself and to make the choice to always do what is right. Only through the actions of great people can we continue to make changes for a positive future.”

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