FORT HOOD – III Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division celebrated life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with an observance at the Fort Hood Phantom Warrior Center Thursday afternoon.

“Martin Luther King paved the way, and to be able to be part of this program is just very special,” said Sgt. 1st Class Melissa Lucia Smith. “It is very meaningful in a way to give back to the community and let our soldiers know the importance of what Martin Luther King did and what he stood for.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist who is widely regarded for his non-violence protests. He led the civil rights movement in the 1960s until his assassination in 1968.

Smith hoped that the observance didn’t only help to remember the great sacrifices Martin Luther King made but also inspired soldiers to go on with his legacy.

“I want them to take the history behind it, why he did what he did, the fight for equality,” she said. “That’s why we are here. We need to remember that.”

Approximately 250 soldiers and family members gathered at the event that was open to the public. This year’s theme of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance was “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not A Day Off.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was on Monday.

President Ronald Reagan signed the federal holiday into law in 1983. Since then, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a holiday the nation pauses to remember his life, work and dreams.

As part of the celebration, the 1st Cavalry Division Honor Guard posted the colors and Sgt. Jermaine Robinson of the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade performed the song “The Impossible Dream.”

Guest speaker retired Sgt. Maj. Rex Thomas reminded the community about King’s work and talked about the true meaning of being an American.

“We have to stop sometimes … and really appreciate the benefits that we have and the life it enables us to live,” he said.

Thomas works as an equal employment opportunity manager on Fort Hood. He is active in many community activities including the Greater Vision Community Church in Killeen and serves as an ordained deacon and chairperson of several outreach ministries.

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