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DoD Salutes African-American Servicemembers for Wartime Service

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

HAMPTON, Va., Feb. 22, 2007 – The Defense Department recognized 11 African-American servicemen and women for their service in the global war against terrorism at a ceremony held at Hampton University here yesterday.

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Left to right: Air National Guard Lt. Col. Mary-Thom Williams, Francis L. Horne, and Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Cleveland Wiltz pose for a photo at the Defense Department’s African-American History Month observance at Hampton University, Va., Feb. 21. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The servicemembers received certificates signed and presented by Clarence A. Johnson, DoD’s principal director and director for civilian equal employment opportunity within the department’s office of diversity management and equal opportunity.

The recognition ceremony is part of annual DoD-sponsored African-American History Month workshops and seminars that reach out to students attending historically black colleges and universities to demonstrate the diverse and rewarding civilian and military careers DoD has to offer. Last year’s event was held at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.

About five years ago, the Pentagon began making annual road trips to “alert and make aware to the HBCU community those opportunities for employment” in DoD or for conducting business with the department, Johnson said.

The theme for DoD’s 2007 African-American History Month observance and outreach activities is “Reaching Out to Youth: A Strategy for Excellence.”

The United States military has taken the lead in equal opportunity, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard, which is a co-sponsor of the two-day Hampton University event. Race or ethnic makeup is irrelevant within the U.S. military, Newman said.

“What matters is that you’re able to serve your country in time of peril,” the two-star general emphasized. “Performance is all that counts,” he said.

William R. Harvey, Hampton University’s president since 1978, is an Army veteran and a lieutenant colonel in the inactive reserve. He praised the servicemembers in attendance and cited the importance of leadership and teamwork to success.

“I salute you,” Harvey told the servicemembers.

Harvey also welcomed Maj. Gen. John R. Hawkins III, the Army’s assistant deputy chief of staff for mobility and reserve affairs, who attended the ceremony. Harvey pointed out that Hawkins’ son, John, who is a doctor, is a Hampton University graduate.

Marine 1st Lt. Cory L. Holiday, 26, was one of the 11 servicemembers recognized at the ceremony. Holiday, from Tallahassee, Fla., noted he’d served a tour of duty as a perimeter and convoy security specialist at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq from August 2005 to April 2006. Confronting America’s enemies in places like Iraq or Afghanistan is part of being a military professional, he said.

“We’re there because we’re told to go. That’s our job,” Holiday pointed out.

The event also featured two World War II-era African-American military luminaries: James Rudy Carter, 85, one of the first African-American Marines, and Francis L. Horne Sr., 85, a graduate of the famed Tuskegee Institute, who served as an aircraft radio repairman.

Carter earned first sergeant’s stripes in 1944 after less than two years in the Marines, becoming one of the highest-ranking enlisted African-Americans in the Corps before the military services were desegregated in 1948.

“The military is way out in front of the civilian population in terms of equal opportunity,” said Carter, who later left the Marines.

Horne went on to earn a commission from Hampton University’s ROTC program in 1948. Horne retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.

The two veterans met with the young servicemembers after the recognition ceremony and swapped stories.

“This event is outstanding. I’m overwhelmed by it,” Horne said.

Other servicemembers honored at the ceremony include:

-- Army Maj. Christopher V. Wynder, for outstanding military police service in Yongsan, South Korea.

-- Army Maj. Norman A. Morton, for outstanding supply support in southeastern Baghdad, November 2005-06.

-- Navy Lt. Cmdr. Pamela Theorgood, for outstanding contracting support in Baghdad.

-- Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Linda J. Cline, for outstanding service with Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, from April to September 2006.

-- Marine Sgt. Tracy Moye, for outstanding legal assistance work at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, from December 2004 through June 2005.

-- Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Cleveland Wiltz, for outstanding medical support at Baghdad International Airport.

-- Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Zarrod A. Beck, for outstanding leadership during Operation Enduring Freedom and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

-- Air National Guard Lt. Col. Mary-Thom Williams, for outstanding inspection results and achieving recruitment goals.

-- Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Keith N. Johnson, for outstanding port security program at Fort Eustis, Va.

-- Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis R. Williams, for outstanding training of Iraqi and Kuwaiti Navy personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Williams is currently deployed.

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African-American History Month Special

Click photo for screen-resolution imageJames Rudy Carter, left, and Marine 1st Lt. Cory L. Holiday pose for a photo at the Defense Department’s African-American History Month observance at Hampton University, Va., Feb. 21. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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