• Luncheon recognizes African-Americans

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth observed National African-American History Month with the African-American History Month luncheon Feb. 7 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    National African-American History Month began as an observance week sponsored by the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History in 1926 before it evolved into a month-long observance in the 1960s. It was officially declared as a national observance month by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
    The 2018 observance theme is “African-Americans in Times of War,” marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 and highlighting the role of African-Americans throughout warfare.
    Capt. Victoria Parrish-Edwards, a Command and General Staff College student and public affairs officer for the Fort Leavenworth Buffalo Soldier Chapter of ROCKS Inc., served as guest speaker.
    “As I reflected on the legacy of African Americans in times of war, I saw men and women grounded in dedication and purpose,” Parrish-Edwards said. “I saw men and women who were willing to use their talents despite the current climate of segregation in the United States. I saw men and women who were willing to give their lives for a country that refused to acknowledge their talents because of the color of their skin.”
    Parrish-Edwards recalled the accomplishments of African-Americans in the military, including the 1700s when African-Americans fought for freedom, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment — the first all-black auxiliary unit — created in 1778, and African-Americans who served in the War of 1812 both in integrated and African-American regiments. She also spoke about individuals, including Della H. Raney, who became the first African-American nurse commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II, and Pvt. William Thompkins of Troop G, 10th U.S. Cavalry, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Tayabacoa, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War.
    “In order to move forward, we must first understand our past,” Parrish- Edwards said. “By looking and reflecting on our past we can realize our future.”
    Parrish Edwards quoted President John F. Kennedy when she focused on the future.
    “Change is the law of life,” she quoted. “And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
    “We live in a fluid environment of change. The battlefield continues to evolve and now our next big conflict may be a large-scale operation that will require all of us to make a greater effort, give our time, dedication and sacrifice,” Parrish-Edwards said. “The future of the military is becoming more and more diverse and the future of the military is sitting right in front of me.”
    While Parrish-Edwards emphasized the importance of continued diversity in the military, she said the true strength of the military comes with unity.
    Page 2 of 3 - “Unity is defined as the state or fact of being united or combined into one as parts of a whole or unification,” Parrish-Edwards said. “In order to understand what unity entails, we must break this word down letter by letter.”
    “U” is for understanding.
    “Understanding is clarity about its true meaning. Unity does not imply uniformity, meaning everybody is the same or likes the same thing,” Parrish-Edwards said. “Unity doesn’t mean that we embrace selfishness, divisiveness or discrimination for the sake of unity. It is not peace at any price. Rather, unity implies that we all embrace the same purpose and that purpose overrides our personal preferences.”
    “N” is for not giving up.
    “A whatever-it-takes attitude is necessary in order to be a successful soldier,” Parrish-Edwards said. “An extra-mile mentality will ensure the concept of unity is not lost.”
    “I” is for intentionality.
    “Intentionality is alignment of a common mission,” she said. “In the military, there is usually a common mission in order to achieve the commander’s end state.”
    “T” is for team.
    “Together everyone accomplishes more,” she said. “There is no ‘I’ in team and the more unified the military becomes the (more the) team-of-teams mentality will continue to grow.”
    “Y” is for yieldness.
    “The ‘it’s not all about me’ mentality is crucial for unity,” Parrish-Edwards said. “Yieldness is an attitude that conveys that I want what is best for the group and the mission.”
    Parrish-Edwards said by acting in unity now, the future can be positively affected.
    “These efforts support the eventual shift of focus from us to those within our reach, within our community and within our organizations,” she said. “It is impossible for any of us to focus on other people, if we are constantly drowning in our own problems. But we are afforded the freedom to choose, how we respond to the inevitable frictions of our nation and how we use the experience in our commitment to make it better.”
    Parrish-Edwards said the important thing is to not get discouraged.
    “As we ponder the perception of divisiveness and licentiousness in our country today, let us not be discouraged by prevalence of negativity in the national media and our social media, but encouraged by our desire to remain positively engaged in our communities through consistent values we hold dear as Americans. And finally, let us not be restricted by our environment, but be prompted into action by our talents for the sake of our future generations,” Parrish-Edwards said.
    Page 3 of 3 - “So, I challenge you to understand your past, realize our future, and reinforce our commitment toward unity because every person of every background has something to offer.”
    The next CAC and Fort Leavenworth observance luncheon will be for Women’s History Month from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 7 at the FCC.
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