In the absence of big crowds, parades, and assemblies, Fort Jackson still found a way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and remind people to use this holiday as a day of service, to remember, celebrate and act.
Although Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, it is also a national day of service, “a day on, not a day off.”
Fort Jackson Dental Activity Commander Col. George Quiroa and 1st Sgt. Stephen Nash welcomed retired Command Sgt. Maj. Lamont Christian as a special guest speaker, through a video they produced in order to still commemorate the day while social distancing.
In his opening remarks Quiroa spoke of honoring Dr. King’s memory.
“I encourage all of you to find a worthy cause and make Dr. King’s Day of Observance an opportunity for service. Make it a day on, not a day off. The greatest way to honor Dr. King’s vision for an equal and just nation is to reach out to fellow citizens and serve,” Quiroa said.
Nash spoke of the theme of this day of service.
“Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off! commemorates, honors and celebrates Dr. King’s legacy and his vision for equality for all. We are encouraged to perform acts of service and to reflect on the principles of our nation – that all people are created equal, regardless of color, gender, or creed, and we are equal members of the human family.”
“We should continue to work together in an effort to achieve our nation’s goal of creating a more perfect union.” Nash said.
Next Quiroa and Nash introduced guest speaker Christian.
Quiroa shared Christian’s accomplishments. “(Retired) Command Sgt Maj. Lamont Christian, whom some of you may recognize as a former Fort Jackson Post CSM …Christian is a native of Brooklyn, New York and entered the Army Reserve as a Parachute Rigger in 1986. He later entered active duty and completed Infantry One Station Unit Training down the road at Fort Benning, Georgia …”
Christian “is well recognized around the world as America’s drill sergeant, having led the Army’s only Drill Sergeant Academy" and having his voice premiered in a military cadence commercial, Quiroa said.
Nash added, “He was later hand selected by the Army’s senior leaders to serve as the senior enlisted advisor to the commander of the world’s largest training post and center for excellence for initial military training here at Fort Jackson. Additionally, he has served and continues to serve the community at-large nationwide in various nonprofit causes for the betterment of social, economic and progressing services for veterans and those who support veterans and their Families."
As Christian began his speech he spoke of the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. and the importance of the civil rights movement.
“When we celebrate his birthday … we take on the theme of remember, celebrate and act, in the simplest of explanations, a day to give back,” Christian said.
Christian explained that King was part of something bigger than himself and his selfless display should encourage us to give back and volunteer.
“Volunteering can be looked at as a defining part of being American,” Christian said. “If you go back as far as the Minutemen at Lexington (Massachusetts) and look forward to our modern day all volunteer force, we depend on this basic connection between volunteerism and citizenship. The strength of our nation relies on its military, and the strength of the military relies on the skills and dedication of its members.”
“Volunteerism as a whole keeps our military families and communities stable,” he added, “by fostering a culture of community cohesion, increased self-reliance, and enhanced well-being of our military, government civilians, and their families and our Army absolutely relies on volunteers to contribute to the well-being of Soldiers, civilians, and Families.”
Christian concluded his speech by challenging people to find a way to give back
“In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s view of being part of something bigger than himself, look into how you can be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
“I encourage you all as Americans to volunteer and improve your communities in whatever way you choose. I for one will be leading an effort to pick up trash on the side of a road that leads into the neighborhood where I live.”
“So my question to you is: are you willing and able to volunteer and serve, to remember, celebrate and act.”
Another special virtual event to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day was Fort Jackson commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr. addressing the Columbia Urban League where he spoke about progress.
Quoting King, Beagle said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
He reminded listeners of the sacrifice and struggle that King experienced.
“Progress is a pursuit,” Beagle said. “It is a pursuit that we can never tire of, become frustrated with, or forget that we all have a role to play in pursuing progress,”
He said that like King we should focus on what is going to be.
“What will you do as a dedicated individual to move us to the next horizon …Will you be one of those passionate individuals in the pursuit of progress?” Beagle asked.
The full video can be seen on the Fort Jackson Commanding General Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FortJacksonCommandingGeneral.
Video of Christian and the DENTAC command team speaking was played on social media and MLK displays were held at the Exchange and in the entrance to Moncrief Army Health Clinic Jan. 19.