NewsAnnouncements : Walter Reed Bethesda Celebrates Life, Legacy of King

Quick Launch

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center > NewsAnnouncements > Walter Reed Bethesda Celebrates Life, Legacy of King
« News Room


Military Health News

Walter Reed Bethesda Celebrates Life, Legacy of King


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communication

The Walter Reed Bethesda community paid homage to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during a program Jan. 16 in the rotunda of the historic Tower at the medical center.
The Multicultural Committee hosted the event, which featured Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Naval Support Activity Bethesda leaders discussing the importance of diversity in the military, and the impact that King made on society.
Setting the tone for the program, WRNMMC Director Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja said, "We, the armed forces of the United States, don't do diversity; we are diverse. I think it's really important we pause occasionally to reflect on that [because] it's one of our great strengths. It's a strategic imperative that we understand this, continue to nurture it and take it to the next level."
Kobelja added it's also important to “pause and reflect on history and where we came from.”
"In the grand narrative of the beginning of our services to today, it doesn't take a great student of history to see how far we have come, [and] of course we have much further to go. We are a diverse nation and it's important that we represent that,” the WRNMMC director continued.
The strategic imperative of diversity within the military, which encompasses race, culture, religion, age, socioeconomics, education and other variables, requires that these different factors come together to successfully accomplish the mission, Kobelja furthered.
“I see that no more clearly than I do here in the hospital setting," he added, explaining that within the walls of WRNMMC, there are "all walks of life, all backgrounds, all educational levels, all ages and more represented. And you don't have to look very far past our outcomes alone to realize what power that diversity brings," he concluded.
NSAB Commanding Officer, Navy Capt. Marvin Jones agreed, adding that “understanding the value of diversity” was one of the gifts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left people. “Our strength comes from our differences and those unique experiences and perspectives all of us bring to this hospital, base and world. Diversity is a force multiplier,” he added.
Jones called King’s influence “irrefutable,” and said that it helped “changed the face of American society for the better and forever.” He added King’s dream of a better and more just society with equality for all, was one for which he fought for and laid down his life. “Each of us has a duty to live out that dream. It doesn’t matter your race, color, creed, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political orientation [or] your philosophical ideation, we all inherit the responsibility to ensure we bestow the virtues of equality in every facet of our lives.”
Adding that he’s no exception to the many who have been inspired by King, Jones said the human rights leader’s legacy has influenced him throughout his life.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, and April 4 of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, Jones explained. The Navy captain recalled how his mother, who he called “the original Rock,” cried like so many others did when told of King’s assassination. “I had never seen my mother cry [before]. The significance of that day really resonated with me.” He also remembered the “mayhem and rioting” in his hometown of Chicago and other cities throughout the nation after word of King’s assassination spread.
“Martin Luther King, Jr., was the hope of equality for the rest of the nation, particularly for those of us who felt disenfranchised,” Jones said. He added people have a responsibility not to forget King’s life, legacy and the causes for which he sacrificed his life including equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the society.
Also as part of the Walter Reed Bethesda ceremony honoring King, members of the Multicultural Committee read his brief biography and the presidential proclamation proclaiming Jan. 15, 2018 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In signing the proclamation, President Donald Trump said of King, “[he] changed the course of human history. Dr. King’s faith and his love for humanity led him and so many other heroes to courageously stand up for civil rights of African Americans. Through his bravery and sacrifice, Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation. He stirred the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul.”
The presidential proclamation states, “Dr. King advocated for the world we still demand — where the sacred rights of all Americans are protected, rural and urban communities are prosperous from coast to coast, and our limits and our opportunities are defined not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.  We remember the immense promise of liberty that lies at the foundation of our great Republic, the responsibility it demands from all of us who claim its benefits, and the many sacrifices of those who have come before us.
“Too often, however, we have neglected these ideals, and injustice has seeped into our politics and our society. Dr. King’s peaceful crusade for justice and equality opened our nation’s eyes to the humbling truth that we were very far from fulfilling our obligation to the promises set forth by our forbearers,” the proclamation continues.
“The Reverend’s devotion to fighting the injustice of segregation and discrimination ignited the American spirit of fraternity and reminded us of our higher purpose.  Through his words and work, he compelled us to hold ourselves to standards of moral character and integrity that are worthy of our Nation and of our humanity.
“Importantly, in paying tribute to Dr. King, we are reminded that the duty lies with each of us to fulfill the vision of his life’s work.  Let us use our time, talents, and resources to give back to our communities and help those less fortunate than us. Particularly today, let us not forget Dr. King’s own tireless spirit and efforts, as we work, celebrate, and pray alongside people of all backgrounds.  As one people, let us rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans, and as people who share a common humanity,” the proclamation concluded.