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Fort Rucker event honors African-American heritage

Vera McCarter, Betty Reynolds and Cynthia Duncan model traditional African clothes Jan. 31 at the African-American History kickoff event at the post exchange. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Vera McCarter, Betty Reynolds and Cynthia Duncan model traditional African clothes Jan. 31 at the African-American History kickoff event at the post exchange. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Published: February 6, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 6, 2014) -- The Army considers the diversity within its ranks a strength, and Fort Rucker recognized the contributions and accomplishments of its African-American members during the African-American History kickoff event at the post exchange Jan. 31.

Held jointly by the Fort Rucker Main Exchange and the Fort Rucker Equal Opportunity, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Garcia, 1st Aviation Brigade equal opportunity adviser, said the event did not just celebrate African-American culture, but American culture.

“Diversity is not only the color of our skin, but backgrounds and heritages that we all come from. That is everything that makes us, us. That is what makes our Army Strong,” he said. “Someone’s cultural experience might give them a unique way to problem solve, and we need that in Army leadership.” 

Garcia said that to truly celebrate the differences within the Army’s ranks and the contributions that different heritages have brought to the Army and to American society, people need to see others for who they are, including their race.

“We all bring a common strength to our Army, and we need to celebrate that,” he said.

Army and Air Force Exchange Services operate on the fundamental belief that individual differences are encouraged, according to Susie Antonello, AAFES visual merchandiser.

“Differences will produce a genuine competitive advantage,” she said. “We want to promote diversity and inclusion in the armed forces, the exchange workforce and the nation as a whole. We hope to recognize and continue the efforts for civil rights in America.”

There were some in attendance at the event – which featured prize drawings, food, Fort Rucker black history trivia, adult and child singers, readings, dancers and more – for whom the Civil Rights Movement fell a little closer to home than others.

“I learned recently that my great-grandmother on my father’s side was the first black woman to register to vote in Alabama,” said Latigre Purdie, Army Family member. “I never thought my Family had such a deep history in the Civil Rights Movement, and it was really touching to know that someone in my Family faced those dangerous times to stand up for their right to vote.”

Purdie said she had renewed respect for her relative, and added she felt closer to her now after experiencing difficult times while in college.  

“I went to a mostly white school, and recently the school had a problem with segregation. People think it’s funny or doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s hard being a black person in those cultures even now where it’s generally accepted for us to go to these colleges,” she said. “It makes me appreciate what I have now knowing what my Family had to go through, what everyone had to go through 50 years ago.”

The nation was built upon the ideal of diversity, and the Exchange is proud to present and uphold this ideal through events like the one held Friday, Antonello said, stressing the importance of learning about different cultures, contributions and heritages.

Garcia agreed.

“These events are educational,” said Garcia. “It helps us experience the food, culture, music, dance, accomplishments, contributions and traditions of minority races. It’s important for everyone to be able to celebrate their heritage and where they come from.”

Seeing people, not color, is a popular saying because of its good intentions, but Garcia warns that it can make some people upset.

“We need to accept that some people struggle more than others, and people want to be recognized for who they are and what they have accomplished – that is a part of validating a person or a race or a heritage for what they have brought to American society,” he said. “People are proud of where they come from, and we should recognize people for their differences and their beauty. We are all beautiful people.”

This article was originally published at

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