MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- Even though he was struck down by an assassin's bullet before he could celebrate his 40th birthday, his legacy lives on.
Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany hosted its annual celebration in acknowledgment of Martin Luther King Jr. at the base's chapel Wednesday morning.
"His (King's) dream is about all people, and his impact has been felt across the world," said Col. Terry Williams, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany. "In order for us to move forward and take the dream forward, we need to remember that influence."
The ceremony's theme was "Products of the Dream." The speaker was Col. Terry Reid, commander of Maintenance Center Albany.
"This day means a lot to me," Reid said. "Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not just a black holiday but a people's holiday."
Reid pointed out that people like King were not afraid to dream of a nation where people could live together in harmony, which he did by pulling an excerpt from the civil rights leader's famous "I Have a Dream" speech that was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1963.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," King famously said.
Six percent of the U.S. Marines' officer corps is African-American. The Marines have 24 African-American colonels, three of whom are stationed at the Albany base.
This allowed Reid to use himself as an example of the changes that have taken place over time, reflecting a progression that has gone from blacks not being allowed to vote to the American public choosing a black man to serve as the country's commander-in-chief.
"By perseverance, I was able to move forward," he said. "I realized I was just as qualified as my peers. In the not-too-distant past, blacks were denied basic rights. Basic rights have been won. We have made some significant strides.
"While there are still gaps, we have made progress. Change doesn't occur overnight."
In closing, Reid said part of ensuring that King's dream is realized is to lend a hand to others.
"I pray that we don't forget to reach back," he said to those in the base's chapel Wednesday. "Your mentoring efforts will be great to someone (hoping) to succeed. Imagine if we all just did that for one person what an impact we would make.
"Dr. King's dream is a continuing vision. His work and the work of so many others was a resolution to reach back, or reach forward, and (help someone else)."
Albany State University President Everette Freeman also made an appearance at the event.
"We pause not to ask what will happen to us, but what will happen to those without hope if we stop (reaching back)," he said. "We pause not for ourselves, but for those that have fallen before us."
The ceremony was sponsored by the Albany area chapter of Blacks in Government.
"(Martin Luther King) was one of the greatest influential people of modern times," Jeffrey Wilson, the chapter's president, said at the ceremony. "His message elevated us. His message is applicable and relevant even today."
King was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta and was assassinated while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Four years before his death, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to combat racial segregation and discrimination by nonviolent means.