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March on, continue to overcome

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The marchers gathered behind the Dental Clinic and walked to the West Gate Chapel, less than a mile.  Some carried backpacks loaded with canned goods, for donation to a local shelter in honor of the civil rights leader.  The squadron or section with the most goods received a trophy.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Approximately 40 Team Eglin personnel participated in the first Martin Luther King Jr. Ruck March here Jan. 17.

The marchers gathered behind the Dental Clinic and walked to the West Gate Chapel, less than a mile.  Some carried backpacks loaded with canned goods, for donation to a local shelter in honor of the civil rights leader.  The squadron or section with the most goods received a trophy.

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Col. (Dr.) Anthony Mitchell, 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, speaks to attendees at the West Gate Chapel, following the first Martin Luther King Jr. Ruck March Jan. 17 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Approximately 40 Team Eglin personnel walked from the Dental Clinic to the West Gate Chapel. Some carried backpacks loaded with canned goods for donation to a local shelter in honor of the civil rights leader. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie).

The 53rd Wing won the top prize with 26 cans.  Capt. Derik Dietel, 53rd Computer Systems Squadron, accepted the trophy for the wing.

“We’re glad to march for a great cause,” he said.  “It’s important to come out and remember where we’ve come from and the work we have yet to do.”

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After the march, Col. (Dr.) Anthony Mitchell, 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, spoke to the attendees.

“The word for today is overcoming,” Mitchell said, as he read part of a letter Dr. King wrote in 1963, while jailed in Birmingham, Ala. for participating in non-violent demonstrations against segregation.

“’…it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his constitutional rights because that quest may precipitate violence,’” the letter read in part.

Mitchell said, then, as now, America must collectively continue to overcome its shortcomings, misunderstandings, stigmas and biases.

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“Overcoming doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.  “It doesn’t happen because you will it so.  It won’t happen because demographics change.  It will only happen if each individual takes the time and does the work, to try to be something better.”

The colonel challenged the audience to be extremists to break down walls.

“Those of you who swear to protect and defend the Constitution are extremists of the highest order,” he said.  “I promise you that peace, justice and understanding are not given.  They must be taken, to improve the country for future generations.  Go out and do the big and small things to make a difference.”

Mitchell ended with a reminder from the civil rights leader.

“Dr. King tells us that justice will prevail, but only if we do it in love,” he said.  “This is the only nation we have.  We have to take care of it by taking care of one another.  If we can do that, then together we can overcome all things.”

Story by Kevin Gaddie, Team Eglin Public Affairs

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