Eighth Army celebrates civil rights leader's legacy

by Cpl. Jung Dong-in, Eighth Army Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

Yongsan, South Korea - "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

Quotes like these and his work during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a leader and the inspiration for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. King was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement who led nonviolent resistances against racial discrimination within the American society in 1950s and 60s. He was later awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964 in recognition of his dedication to the human rights campaign.

Every year we pay a tribute to King in honor of his efforts to realize justice and race equality.

During this year's birthday observance, hosted by 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, members of the Eighth Army community gathered to celebrate King's birthday and legacy at the Dragon Hill Lodge on U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, Jan. 12.

This year's event honored King's principals with the theme of "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on, not a day off."

Eighth Army Commanding General, Thomas S. Vandal showed his respect for King through a message that stressed the importance of diversity and the capacity to embrace it.

"His accomplishments during those times of intense adversity not only shaped and defined the Civil Rights Movement, but also the U.S. Army's legacy as an organization that embraces diversity and equality for all," said vandal. "We all have benefitted and we are also stewards of the ideals that Dr. King championed. Our nation is strong because of its diversity, and as Dr. King understood, we are stronger when we stand together."

Sgt. Maj. Willie T. Grandison Jr., Eighth Army personnel senior enlisted advisor, served as the guest speaker for the event.

"This holiday honors the courage of a man who endured constant harassment, threats, beatings and was jailed more than 30 times and even had his home burned down," Grandison said. "But yet he never gave up the fight for justice and equality. We should all strive to exemplify Dr. King's life which stood for civil rights and justice for all people."

Additionally, students from Area II schools held an MLK essay competition and the best essay was chosen from each grade. Lika Sylla, the Eighth-grade winner from Seoul Middle School, said King's speeches had a strong personal impact on her.

"King said 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,'" Sylla said. "It leads me to be vocal about subjects that are important and yet everyone around me is oblivious to."

According to Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Woods, an equal opportunity advisor with 501st MI Bde., the competition was intended to let the younger generation appreciate King's life and what he left for us.

"We wanted to bring students in so they can all be part of this celebration and express what Martin Luther King Jr. means to them," Woods said. "And Martin Luther King's accomplishments and legacy will never fade thanks in part to celebrations like the one held at the Dragon Hill Lodge."

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