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Walter Reed Bethesda Salutes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

Honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and celebrating the diversity and jointness of Walter Reed Bethesda, Army Col. Tonya Dickerson served as the guest speaker at WRB’s observance for the Civil Rights icon on Jan. 17 in Memorial Auditorium.

“[King] forced change in a society that did not want change,” said Dickerson, commander of Troop Command at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “He fought to destroy the color line and paid the price for it with his life. His messages of yesterday are perfect for us today.

“As we commemorate this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we can look at the news, our communities and workplaces, and see that we still have a significant racial divide in our country,” Dickerson continued. “The marches, protests, and even division among friends and family show that racism and discrimination did not end with the Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, there is still much work to be done.”

In honoring King’s legacy, Dickerson said it’s important for the people to realize that King was not always popular. “He was not seen by many as a hero. He did not accept the status quo. He stood up to authority, faced fire hoses, attack dogs, tear gas and police batons. In his lifetime, he was arrested over 29 times. Despite this, Dickerson said King’s messages always centered on nonviolence, love and equality.

“Today, I want us to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, but I want us to do more. I want you to educate yourself about history. I want you to read books and essays from perspectives that are new or different to you. I want you to make an effort to cross the color line and talk to people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, a different religion, or those from a different country, or even a branch of service,” said the Army colonel. “Try to listen to their perspectives and experiences with an open mind. Let’s try to bridge the gap that still separates us. Let’s embrace our fellow Americans and work to ensure we are not the divided states, but rather, the United States of America.”

Tying WRNMMC’s “jointness” as a military force to the King celebration, Dickerson led the audience in the cheer, stating, “Embrace jointness. We are better together. One team. One fight. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.” She closed with King’s quote, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”

WRNMMC Command Master Chief Sean Brown added, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was one of the most influential leaders we have seen in America, if not the world. One of his greatest messages was to judge people by the content of their character. When we’re all gone, our friends, family and others will remember us for our actions, so let your actions speak to the content of your character, which will speak to the legacy you leave.”

If he had not been assassinated at the age of 39 in 1968, King would have been 90 years old Jan. 15, stated Army Col. (Dr.) Rodney Gonzalez, WRNMMC chief of staff. “Unfortunately, he was tragically taken from us way to early.”

Gonzalez described King as “a man of dignity and respect who realized all men and women are created equal, and that we should be treating each other as equals.”

Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Douglas Holmes said, King’s “words have become the thoughts and dreams of everyday citizens,” and his “courage and bravery have stood the test of time. It was his aim to create a more peaceful and just world; to end hate; for courage to be nonviolent; and for healing of the oppressed and oppressors. His life and work were one of sacrifice and a testimony to wake up a nation. Let us remember in his own words that, ‘darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’”

The Walter Reed Bethesda Multicultural Committee sponsored the observance. For more information about the Multicultural Committee, call Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jared Reiber at 301-295-8843.​