A significant chapter of American military history was honored in an energetic celebration of words, song and dance Saturday on Joint Base Myer-Henderson during a Gospel Service/Black History Month celebration.
Featured speakers and Keeper of the Community awardees guided the audience through their experiences in the military and were rejoiced by the congregation for military and personal accomplishments and yet supported as they explained life setbacks during the afternoon service.
World War II-era Soldiers including a surviving member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion and a pair of Tuskegee Airmen were guests of honor for the program where witnesses proclaimed their military journeys.
During the service, entitled “Black Migrations/My Military Journey,” six individuals and organizations received The Keeper of the Community Awards. The award is awarded to those who are committed to making positive changes in their communities and demonstrate tremendous leadership in their personal and professional lives. The award recipients Maya Jai Pinson, the Prince Hall Freemasons and Eastern Star Charitable Foundation, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corp Ronald Green, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. R. Scott Dingle and Jerome Lindsay thanked the audience and spoke of their journeys.
“I’ve had 36 years of service; my journey is coming to an end,” Green said. “The only two ribbons and badges on my chest that I’m individually responsible for are one — the Good Conduct Medal. I control my conduct. The other is the Outstanding Volunteer and Service Medal. I control my ability to volunteer and do for others because I know my blessings.”
Special recognition was given to Deloris Ruddock, a 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion member. She one of five known living members of the only African-American Women’s Army Corps battalion deployed to Europe during World War II. She contributed to the war effort by sorting and distributing armed forces mail in the European theater. Surviving Tuskegee Airmen William T. Fauntroy, Jr. and Walter K. Robinson were also present in the chapel.
Also sharing her testimonial journey was Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ellen E. Jones, senior enlisted leader at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. She talked of the trials and tribulations faced as an Airman.
“When I joined, it wasn’t what I expected,” Jones said. “There were a lot of folks who were not happy that I was there. No. 1: I was female. And No. 2: A black female. I was their threat; they didn’t want to see me there. I had a mentor, and she told me regardless of what people were trying to do to me, you do your best.”
She suggested the power of prayer assisted her to thrive and flourish in the Air Force. She told the congregation that opportunities — then and now — are meant to be seized.
“I found if you want to be successful, I surround myself with people who want to be successful, as well,” she said. “I would never change anything about my journey. Don’t be afraid of your journey. Don’t be afraid to tell your story.”
Dingle, the deputy Army surgeon general and deputy commanding general (Support) U.S. Army Medical Command, began his remarks about trials and perseverance but he concentrated on an easy-to-understand theme.
The meaning of his journey centered around a book entitled, “Easier Said,” by former Tuskegee Airman the late Leroy Battle.
“(Battle) said to me once, when we were coming up through all the racism and all the challenges and the struggle that life threw at them as Tuskegee Airmen breaking trail and breaking brush, he said that our mantra was this: Stay focused, stick to it, and get it done,” said Dingle.
Dingle, a high school football player who suffered a knee injury and chose collegiate track to rehabilitate, continued to follow the Tuskegee Airmen mantra when he felt challenged.
“Even at times when I wanted to quit when I lost focus and didn’t want to stick to it and get it done, God had placed mentors in my life to kind of keep me there,” Dingle said. “That saved my life and helped me turn my life around.”
The toughest part of his military life did not deal with racism or inequality, but the personal loss of his parents. He told the story of receiving a promotion in JBM-HH’s Memorial Chapel weeks before his biggest supporter, his father, passed away.
“That was the greatest day of his life,” he said. “It was the greatest day of his life because Dad’s dream came true. The power of a praying father. He taught me to stay focused, stick with it, and get it done.”
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.