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Fort Bragg Celebrates King's Birthday

By Michelle Butzgy
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Jan. 15, 2008 – Soldiers and civilians gathered at the Fort Bragg Officers’ Club here this morning to remember a man whose service and dedication to the civil rights movement had directly or indirectly touched each person attending.

The 44th Medical Command and the post’s Equal Opportunity Office hosted a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observance on the slain civil rights leader's  birthday.

Martin Luther King Jr., one of the primary leaders of the American civil rights movement, was born Jan. 15, 1929, and was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. President Ronald Reagan designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday in 1983. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year.

While guests ate breakfast during the observance, watched a video tribute about King’s life made by the 82nd Airborne Division with excerpts of some of his famous speeches. Civilians and soldiers created a human “timeline” of King’s life, each one talking about a period in King’s life.

Patricia Timmons-Goodson, a North Carolina Supreme Court justice, told the audience how King had touched her life. One of the longest-serving judges in the state, Timmons-Goodson talked about justice, but not just any kind of justice.

“I’m talking about a social justice that allowed me to pursue a legal education and become a judge. I’m talking about the social justice that allowed many of you to pursue your interests,” Timmons-Goodson said.

“One of the greatest tributes that I ever heard paid to Dr. King was during (the ground breaking ceremony at the National Mall November 13, 2006.) That came from (former) President (Bill) Clinton,” she said. “He remarked that it was entirely fitting that Dr. King’s memorial would be located between the Jefferson and the Lincoln monuments because in his mind, the three great men built upon each other’s life work.”

The judge challenged the audience to take action to promote justice in their own lives.

“So, yes it’s easy for President Clinton and for others to talk each year as we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, to talk about picking up the torch and carrying on the work of Dr. King, about acting. But is that something we can really do?” she asked.

Timmons-Goodson also spoke about the great accomplishments of King, highlighting how he went to college at age 15, and how he later went on to win the Nobel Peace prize. She questioned the audience how he could achieve so much without being some sort of a superhero.

“The answer lies in his sermons, his writings and how he lived much of his life,” she said. “I believe it was his willingness to serve. Serving is something he did and it’s something we can all do; that many of us do now in some capacity, in some way, even if we’re not aware. That’s the new measure of excellence. Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

She related the act of serving to what the Armed Forces does every day — serve the country. As a daughter of a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, Timmons-Goodson said she felt she was “preaching to the choir” to the audience made up mostly of soldiers and civilians.

“You simply look outside of yourself. You help others. You lend a hand and serve your community. Everybody’s community is different. For you, as Soldiers and civilians that assist our military, your community is the entire world and you’re out there serving mankind, I would say,” she said. “As the late Coretta Scott-King requested of us, ‘make this a day on, not a day off.’”

After Timmons-Goodson’s speech, Brig. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, XVIII Airborne Corps deputy commander, recognized her with a coin.

“I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who have turned out this morning for this very important observance. I challenge you to remember the messages that you heard here today from Judge Timmons-Goodson … as we remember what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us, (when he gave the world) his message of love, his message of brotherhood and of service,” said Bartell.

(Michelle Butzgy writes for the Fort Bragg Paraglide newspaper.)

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