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Remember, celebrate, act

Martin Luther King Jr. Observacne event

Ouida Winters, Eglin’s chief of contracts, is one of the guest speakers at the Martin Luther King Jr. observance event Jan. 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The theme was “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off!” (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Eglin held a Martin Luther King Jr. observance event Jan. 15.  The theme was “Remember!  Celebrate!  Act!  A Day On, Not a Day Off!”

The guest speakers were retired Lt. Col. Kirby Locklear; Ouida Winters, Eglin’s chief of contracts and Chaplain (Col.) Jonathan Wade, 96th Test Wing chaplain.

Locklear, who is of African and Lumbee Indian descent, said King's birthday is not simply a time to renew calls for justice and equality, but also a time to reflect on how far the United States has come.

Though granted citizenship, Native Americans suffered the same racism and stereotyping other minorities faced, Locklear said.

To preserve their heritage, Native American leaders continue to use U.S. laws to live as Indian tribes in territories governed by tribal sovereignty, he said.

“King and other civil rights activists inspired us to believe we could fight for a policy of self-determination that is consistent with U.S. law to govern our own affairs, define our own ways and continue to survive in this society,” Locklear said.

Winters challenged the audience to answer King’s call to freedom, equality and service to others.

“It is a call to stand for what is right, blaze a pathway for the future, to stand on the horizons and declare the creed of justice that will manifest itself in our hearts and minds forever,” she said.  “It is also a call of service before self.”

Winters encouraged heeding the call despite distractions caused by apathy, personal beliefs, world atrocities and the media.

“The call never dies, it is just awaiting your response,” she said.

Wade began with the story of a young Depression-era couple of different heritages who decided to marry two weeks after they met.

He said soon after they moved in together, the pair awoke one night and saw a cross burning in their yard.  It was put there by a hate group, who didn’t appreciate their union.

Wade said the incident didn’t happen in the South, but in northern Ohio.

“The couple had the same skin color,” Wade said.  “The woman was an Austrian Catholic immigrant and could barely speak English.  The man was a Protestant who could trace his family heritage back to the 1600s.  They were my grandparents.”

Back then, Protestants and Catholics who married were discriminated against, he said.

The chaplain ended his speech with a scripture that guided King’s life.