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Troops Overseas Celebrate Martin Luther King’s Birthday

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2007 – "A day on, not a day off" was the motto as soldiers celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday across Iraq over the holiday weekend of Jan. 13 to 15.

At Camp Liberty, Iraq, soldiers participated in a morning fun run and a ceremony in the 1st Cavalry Division chapel. After the 2-mile run, which began at 6 a.m., Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, deputy commanding general of support for Multinational Division Baghdad, spoke to the troops, reflecting on the service and legacy of the civil rights leader.

"Let's take his inspiration into our hearts and guide ourselves by the principles Dr. King spoke of," Brooks said.

Brooks also drew parallels between King's fight for civil rights and the fight servicemembers are involved in today. While King may not agree with the war if he were alive today, Brooks said, he would be very proud of all of those serving their country.

During the ceremony, MNDB soldiers stood and recited the "I Have a Dream" speech given by King as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. The soldiers also offered a skit showing tolerance for those in attendance.

At Camp Taji, hundreds of soldiers gathered at the ministry center Jan. 15 for the 1st Cavalry Division's observance of King's birthday. Brooks was also the guest speaker at this ceremony, and his message was similar.

"The celebration has always been listed as a day on, not a day off. The meaning of that, of course, is that there is yet work to be done," he said.

Although King was against using violence to solve problems, he believed that injustice anywhere would prevent justice everywhere, Brooks said. "I happen to believe that Dr. King would applaud each of us for standing up against injustice, even if he didn't agree with the method," he said during his speech.

Army Spc. Brendon McGee, an aviation operations specialist who attended the ceremony, said it was a day of remembrance of the struggle for equality of all people, regardless of race, creed or color.

"It's still a continuous struggle. Just because we have those civil rights in the United States, there's other people across the world that are not enjoying those freedoms," said McGee, a Memphis native.

At Forward Operating Base Q-West, soldiers from four units hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observance Jan. 13 for a standing-room-only crowd at the morale, welfare and recreation center.

The observance included a detailed account of the history and importance of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as poetry, a performance by members of the Q-West gospel choir, a skit reenacting Rosa Park's refusal to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, and the reading of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

"This holiday is important because Martin Luther King Jr. is the founder of diversity, and he is a legacy," said Master Sgt. Linda Brooks, Q-West's equal opportunity advisor from 45th Sustainment Brigade. "Out here, while we are deployed, we shouldn't forget that even though we are from different backgrounds and different races, we come together as a team. So even though we are deployed, I don't want soldiers to forget about how we got where we are today, and continue with King's legacy."

The ceremony had two guest speakers, Lt. Col. Aimee Kominiak, commander of the 45th Special Troops Battalion, and Lt. Col. Milton Hodge, with 2nd Battalion, 123rd Armor Regiment.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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