Eglin celebrates Black History Month

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gaddie
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs


EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Black History Month kicked off with an opening event here Feb. 1.  This year’s theme is “Black Resiliency.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jonathan Holmes, founder of the African American Heritage Military Society, started the event by sharing what resiliency means to him.

Holmes, an Army and Air Force veteran, lost a kidney while serving as an explosive ordnance disposal technician.   After persevering through 12 years of dialysis and receiving a new kidney, he continued serving the military by founding the society.

“There were a lot of people in my life, who blessed me with their strength and helped me become resilient,” he said.  “I established the society for them.  I feel it serves as a symbol to the African American men and women who served in uniform.  It is a symbol of their resiliency.”

In his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. Jeff Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander, spoke about African American engineering aviation battalions, who made significant contributions in the base’s expansion during World War II.

“It was these newly formed battalions, while training for war, that transformed Eglin’s landscape,” he said.

The battalion personnel dealt with sweltering heat while cutting through dense forests to construct new roads, buildings and bridges, to pave the way for Eglin’s future.

Their primary mission was airfield construction and repair.  The airfields proved pivotal for Allied aircraft bombers as they returned riddled with bullets, and often broken as they landed. Their contributions and sacrifices played a vital role in shaping our nation's history and securing its freedom.

Geraghty asked the attendees to not only celebrate the month’s events, but to form a united front in looking to the future with hope and determination.

“Together, we must continue to strive for a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity within our Air Force,” he said.  “We must recognize our differences are our strengths and together we are an unstoppable force.”

The following are the month's events. Anyone with base access can attend.

  • Black History reading – Youth Center, Feb. 7, 14, 21, and 28, 3 to 4:30 p.m. Volunteers read books about famous African Americans and share recipes.  For more information, call 882-6950.
  • Florida's Black History presentation– Enlisted Heritage Hall, Feb. 8, 3 to 4 p.m. Guest speakers include Dr. Kyle Harris, assistant professor of History and African American Studies at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Maxine Jones, professor of History at Florida State University.  For more information, call 882-6346.
  • Historical Black Colleges and Universities panel discussion - USO, across from the Fitness Center, Feb. 9, 6 to 8 p.m.  Panel consists of HBCU graduates and current students. Music and refreshments provided.  For more information, call 882-7142.
  • Legal lunch and learn panel – 96 TW Legal Office, Feb. 22, noon to 1 p.m.  Panel includes three civilian attorneys. Refreshments provided. For more information, call 882-1289.
  • Spoken word and talent show – Air Armament Museum, Feb. 23, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eglin community members will display their talents and compete for prizes. For more information, call 885-3968.
  • Closing event – Air Armament Museum, Feb. 24, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  For more information, call 882-5208.