By Staff Sgt. Joe Armas
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the late civil rights leader who challenged Americans of all backgrounds to peacefully seek racial equality in the 1960s.
From his famous march on Washington to his peaceful protests, King's legacy is well documented and celebrated every year by millions of Americans in January.
In Afghanistan, soldiers from the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, honored King's legacy during a ceremony Jan. 10 at the airfield dining facility. The soldiers recounted the timeline of King's life through poems, songs and speeches.
"Dr. King was a leader for those who suffered from injustice," said 1st Lt. Steven Coleman, executive officer, Alpha Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion.
"He was the trailblazer for the civil rights movement who united people of all creeds in a peaceful manner," said Coleman, who recited the poem, "Remembering a Life" during the ceremony.
Coleman said King's legacy is not exclusively represented in the achievements of minorities, but in the achievements of all Americans.
"It's a testament to how we have evolved as a society, that we no longer judge people by the color of their skin," said Coleman.
Sgt. Stanley Isaacs, who organized the event, said the intent was for those in attendance to fully understand the hardships King endured in his plight for equality.
"It's amazing when you think about the trouble that he went through and all of the heartaches he suffered just so people would be treated equally," said Isaacs.
Isaacs said King's legacy resonates with him on a personal level, since the civil rights struggle directly affected his family in Mississippi.
"My grandmother couldn't even ride on a bus (in the 1960s)," said Isaacs. "She just did as she was told; she wasn't afforded the same opportunities I have today."
King brought about change and his efforts turned the tide for minorities so that they could have a chance to succeed in today's society, said Isaacs.
"Here I am serving in the Army as a noncommissioned officer… We've come a long way," he added.
Spc. Ecclesia Walker sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" during the ceremony in honor of King, who reportedly requested the song to be played at an event he was scheduled to attend but died before he could.
Walker, a motor transport operator, assigned to Alpha Company, cited King's "I Have a Dream" speech as proof of what King stood for.
"It's important to understand the impact Dr. King had on our society," she said.
Coleman said King's legacy is prevalent throughout America's diverse fighting force. "The mission of Dr. King's life was to unify people to come together, and here you have soldiers with different ethnicities and backgrounds fighting together as one team."