Retired CSM honors MLK during speech at ceremony

by Mark Heeter
USAG Kaiserslautern Public Affairs

Slipping into an impassioned impersonation of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Eggleston mixed quotes from famous sermons and speeches with the story of the iconic minister and civil rights leader.

“He was a leader of a people who were thirsty and hungry for freedom and equality,” Command Sergeant Major Eggleston said while delivering the keynote address at the MLK observation and commemorative march Jan. 19 at the Galaxy Theater on Vogelweh.

The event was a cooperative effort organized by the equal opportunity advisers from U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and 7th Civil Support Command.

Command Sergeant Major Eggleston began his remarks by inviting the roughly 100 people in the theater to share a “handshake of fellowship and brotherhood.”

While performing excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” and “I See the Promised Land/I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches, Command Sergeant Major Eggleston took the audience on a historical “march of a dream.”

Recalling his own childhood in Gulfport, Miss., Command Sergeant Major Eggleston painted a picture of the segregationist system against which Dr. King and his followers fought, calling on his memory of a “shabby, one-room, leaky school house, from which one teacher taught five different grades at the same time.”
“It was a system that fostered the beliefs of racial segregation,” he said. “These are the systems Dr. King sought to defeat.”

The commemorative event marked the 25th anniversary of the first federal holiday honoring Dr. King, who was assassinated during a trip to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., in April 1968. Command Sergeant Major Eggleston noted, however, that it was not until 2000 that all states observed the holiday.

“The holiday for me is a time that I can give thanks back for the sacrifices that Dr. King, my grandparents, many others who participated in the civil rights movement — to honor them — for the sacrifices that they made,” Command Sergeant Major Eggleston said, after the 1.3-mile march through Vogelweh and Kapaun Air Station.
A display of Dr. King’s works, biographies and other literature related to American history and the civil rights movement filled one corner of the theater lobby.

“All history is good history. It’s just learning about where you come from,” said Sgt. Ottonio Fletcher, from the 21st TSC, while browsing the books and scanning a book about heroes.