COPPERAS COVE — As guests filed in to the Knights of Columbus hall Saturday night for the ninth annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ira Brand was nervous.

Earlier, he received a message that the scheduled speaker, Father Reginald Samuels, was unable to attend the event.

But Brand, a member of the committee that plans the annual celebration, quickly improvised. In lieu of a speaker, he offered those in attendance the opportunity to share what King meant to them.

Taking the lead, Brand talked about the adversities King faced.

“If it had been put to a vote in the early 1960s, most people would have been against him,” Brand said. “But he kept on pushing and exposing the injustice in this country, and he did that by emphasizing what America was. He was the one who truly symbolized America.”

At Brand’s request, Matthew Hardeman took the stand next. He was in the Air Force for 20 years and was stationed in West Berlin, Germany.

“I told my children that after my experience in Germany, I learned that they would be better off putting up with all the unrest in America than being a communist,” he said.

Ross Lovelace, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, said King forced people to live up to their ideals.

“I was in the military and never had to deal with discrimination. I thought we all bled green,” Lovelace said. “I thought we were doing pretty good until I saw the riots, and I was disappointed that we still had a lot of work to do.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, a former commander of Fort Hood, said the cancellation of the guest speaker might have been a bonus for the evening.

“We heard some great stuff from folks in our community.  They’ve had some wonderful experiences.”

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