FORT HOOD – At least 500 soldiers, family and community members attended an African-American History Month observance at Fort Hood’s community event center on Thursday.
They heard from this year’s guest speaker, Rodney W. Gilchrist, a retired Army sergeant major.
This year’s theme is “African-Americans in Times of War,” which focuses on the contributions of African-Americans to the defense of the nation, from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Gilchrist last served as the III Corps and Fort Hood paralegal command sergeant major, serving as the senior enlisted adviser to the III Corps and Fort Hood staff judge advocate. He is a combat veteran who served tours both in the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There would be no United States if there were never people from the various sections of our nation committed and willing to fight and to die for freedom,” Gilchrist said. “From the founding this great nation, men and women have been willing to take up arms to defend the ideals and the principles of freedom.”
Gilchrist said African-Americans have been selflessly serving in the armed forces since the Revolutionary War up to and including the current Global War on Terrorism.
“Even while they could not enjoy the freedoms inscribed in the Constitution, African-Americans were fighting to make and to keep these United States the land of the free,” Gilchrist said. “Even when they could not be publicly honored, they served honorably.”
Gilchrist said the difference he experienced regarding race relations from the military community in contrast with the civilian community is how camaraderie can bring people together.
“When you are dependent on someone to keep you alive you treat them better,” Gilchrist said. “You learn how to get along with people when you know your life and their life depend on getting along.”
Gilchrist said the importance of having these monthly observances are important because history is written by people and people’s perspective shapes how history is written.
“The original history of America didn’t really include black people so what we are really doing is rewriting history and reshaping it to ensure we include all the people who have contributed to this great nation from the very beginning.”