“Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Baptist minister, Nobel laureate, and civil rights activist, who dedicated his life, working tirelessly for peace, social justice and opportunity for all Americans — irrespective of color or creed,” said Lt. Col. Michael Zink, who hosted the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance Jan. 19 at Tony Bass Auditorium on behalf of Garrison Commander Col. Todd J. Fish.
Nearly 50 years have passed since April 4, 1968, when King was assassinated. Michael Bartelle, guest speaker and vice president of overseas operations at Andrews Federal Credit Union, said his interest in King started when he was 7 years old on the day of King’s assassination. The news was disseminated on all channels — three in total at that time. As of that day, Bartelle started to collect all pieces of information about Martin Luther King he could get ahold of.
“He gave his life to ensure that everybody would be treated equally,” said Bartelle, who reminded the participants of the time when Jim Crow laws were enforced in the former Confederate states, stating facilities and institutions had to be “separate but equal,” but the lack of equality was more than obvious. Although King’s focus seemed to be within the African American community, he wanted to ensure civil rights for all disenfranchised Americans, Bartelle said.
A presentation of the civil rights movement’s march over Edmund Pettus Bridge was shown, and Bartelle pointed out how ironic it was that this famous march took place on a bridge that had been named after Edmund Pettus, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I think, it’s important that people understand the history of what happened in Alabama during those times,” said Lewis E. Pullum, administrative support for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, who sat in the audience during the observance. “Being from Alabama has helped me to understand what people endured.”