Joint Base Andrews members reflect on MLK legacy
By Bobby Jones, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 19, 2012
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- In the midst of celebrating the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial day, Joint Base Andrews members paused to reflect on what MLK's journey for civil rights meant to them at the newest monument on the Washington Mall -- "The Stone of Hope" memorial that commemorates Dr. King's contributions to racial equality.
"Every day we are living Dr. King's dream," said Troy Baker, 11th Wing Equal Opportunity specialist. "I get to take my son places where my father couldn't have even been in the same neighborhood. People of all races are able to work, play, and even protest, thanks to their freedom of speech.
"I was at the first "Million Man March" in Washington D.C. on Oct. 16, 1995. And even from that day, I never thought we would have a Dr. King monument constructed in D.C.," said Baker, a native Washingtonian.
"Although our society has made strides, we still need to treat others with dignity and respect regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or sexual orientation. 'The Dream,' to me, is continuing to make a difference in your community, within your respective family and daily self-improvement," Baker said. "We all need to work harder today to make our tomorrow even better."
For Retired Navy Chief Mess Steward Robert Jenkins, who currently works part-time as a bagger at the Andrews Commissary, Dr. King's teachings of equality have had a profound impact on his life. "Dr. King's dream taught me we had rights like everybody else," said the 95-year-old. "He also taught me how to take advantage of opportunities while I was in the Navy."
Jenkins, who retired in 1965, began a second career working at the U.S. Customs Field Operations Office in Boston. Then, in his twilight years, Jenkins eventually retired in the local Boston area and relished the opportunities made available to local senior citizens by Harvard University.
"When I found out that Harvard was offering free courses to senior citizens, I took advantage and registered for public speaking and it took me a long way," Jenkins said.
Well known by fellow commissary workers and patrons alike, Jenkins is somewhat of a figure himself in Navy history. He is featured in a photo alongside his decease friend, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dorie Miller in a book entitled "The Messman Chronicles: African Americans in the U.S. Navy 1932-1943."
Petty Officer Miller was an African American Sailor who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions while manning and operating a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft during the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor while he was onboard the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941.
Jenkins expressed his strong feelings toward the MKL monument.
"I think it's a wonderful thing and well overdue, because I believe Dr. King was a God-sent man," he said. "If Dr. King was alive today he would still be my idol."
Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Brinkley, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews Command Chief Master Sergeant, said he believes Dr. King's vision of civil equality has impacted not only America, but he entire world.
"Dr. King's legacy is that those who did not have a voice, now have a voice," the chief said. "His unyielding devotion to matters of civil rights were integral to galvanizing our nation. It compelled us to change drastically.
"Where there was once exclusion, now there is inclusion; and now we have to continue to build upon the established platform of Dr. King's selfless service to those around us," Brinkley said.
The Chief said the Stone of Hope memorial is an enormous inspiration to him.
"I believe the Stone of Hope memorial is a tangible reminder of his mandate to continue to speak up on things that diminish us as a nation," he said. "The memorial speaks to each of us to reach beyond what we can see and challenge convention in order to form a more perfect union.
"I was honored and moved by this immaculate symbol and feel compelled to continue to push forward each day as we come closer to new horizons, both personally and collectively," Brinkley said.