Fort Stewart’s Warriors in Transition Battalion observed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Friday afternoon.
The observance, called “Life of a King: a day On, not a day Off,” commemorated the life and legacy of the civil rights leader.
State Rep. Al Williams, who represents Georgia’s 165th District, which includes most of Liberty County, spoke.
The observance kicked off with an invocation by WTB Chap. Lyde Andrews and introduction by Lt. Col. Rose Deck, WTB commander.
“Today’s program was generated by our soldiers, cadre and staff,” Deck said, reminding everyone that King would have turned 84 this year. “This presentation is a cross-cultural observance that includes readings, music and (interpretive) dance.”
“Good morning, church,” Michael David welcomed those attending. The retired sergeant major, now serving as a training specialist, portrayed King delivering a morning message. Later, he recited King’s last speech.
A series of characters portrayed someone close to King or an important participant in the civil rights movement. They included portrayals of King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, naturalist Henry David Thoreau, activist Rosa Parks, Pres. Lyndon Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi and folk singer Joan Baez.
An enthusiastic choir sang a rhythmic spiritual, and “praise angels” performed an interpretive dance. King’s famous 1963 “I have a dream” speech was performed by various WTB soldiers, cadre and staff. Then David recited King’s last speech. “I have been to the mountaintop” was delivered April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., the night before he was murdered.
“Dr. King was a prophet of non-violence,” Williams said before the observance. “He helped free all Americans, and his dream is still alive and well today.”
Williams talked about King from experience with the man, whom he joked about as a great basketball player despite being “5-foot-7.” Williams said Liberty County was a “training center for civil rights activists” in the 1960s. They had a special room for King at what’s now the Dorchester Academy whenever he was in town. Williams told how as a young man, he left Hinesville on a bus to Alabama where he ended up in jail the next day.
“I’m proud of the fact that I went to jail 17 times to fight injustice,” he said.
Williams was in Vietnam when King was killed. “I was in a field hospital in Cam Ranh Bay on April 4, 1968, when a news flash said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated.”
Williams reminded everyone that King’s message and movement spread around the world, citing the labor movement in Poland and the fall of the Berlin Wall in which protesters sang “We shall overcome.”
He concluded his message by relating a part of King’s “I have a dream” speech, saying “My country ‘tis of thee” finally includes me.”