JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.
The Hampton Roads community commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Jan. 17-18, 2019.
The Department of Defense’s annual theme for 2019 is “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on not a day off!” The JBLE community emphasized Dr. Kings’ message, “Let every voice be heard.”
According to King, one of the most powerful rights of American citizens is the right to vote. In 1957, King gave a speech titled “Give us the ballot” where he spoke on the importance of equal voting rights.
“So long as I do not possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself, I cannot make up my mind, it is made up for me,” King said.
This right of every American citizen was the focus of the Langley African American Heritage Council’s event, “Let Every Voice Be Heard,” with reminders of the power to make change, steer and influence what citizens want their communities, cities, states and nation to look like.
“We cannot effectively make the changes we want to see in America if we do not use one of the most powerful rights given to us as Americans,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Sean Tyler, 633rd Air Base Wing commander. “There are many countries out there whose citizens dream of having a similar system that we do in the United States. We often get tied up in the current process of what’s happening and it may not look as good as we want it to look, but we can’t lose sight of the big picture and what we do have.”
The LAAHC played a video demonstrating what kids think about voting today, followed by a skit focused on some of the facts that drove Dr. King to fight for voting rights.
“I am here to talk to us about not only voting and remembering Dr. King and all that he instilled in many of us,” said guest speaker Daun Hester, City of Norfolk treasurer. “I was two in ’57 when he did his ballot box speech. So yes, my parents, because they were a part of the movement, instilled in my siblings and I that you must do something to make a difference where you live.”
Hester spoke of growing up in Virginia and how the values she learned in her youth still apply today. Ever since she turned 18, she has never missed a chance to vote and encourages all to advise their children of the importance of voting.
“Martin Luther King – his biggest thing was diversity and that literally is what the military is all about,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Terrell Duckworth, LAAHC parliamentarian. “Like Mrs. Hester said, we are almost the epitome of what he was talking about; we just have our own way of getting to that goal.”
At Fort Eustis, the Woodside High School Center for Arts and Communications choir sang in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Wylie Theater. Joining the celebration were Fred McKinnon, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command portfolio manager, who performed a comedy routine, and guest speaker Carlos Hopkins, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs.
According to William Smith, Joint Base Langley-Eustis 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Day planning committee member, King was fighting for the freedoms of all Americans to include all nationalities, not just black Americans.