MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain Sailors reflect on Black History Month and discuss how heritage and history affect both the present and future.
For Cmdr. Walter Manuel, NSA Bahrain’s executive officer, Black History Month is an important time for reflection.
“It is a time of year when we can reflect back on and honor some of the African American accomplishments and contributions to our country…we can honor the challenges they faced and the sacrifices they made,” said Manuel.
Manuel believes it is very important to remember African American historical achievements and to see them as a source of inspiration. He also believes that there are a great many African American military heroes, both past and present.
For Manuel, retired Vice Adm. Bruce Grooms is his role model. Manuel met Grooms while he was serving at the United States Naval Academy as a company officer.
“He [Grooms] was a pioneer. He served as a commanding officer of a nuclear submarine in a time where there were only a handful of African American nuclear submarine commanding officers. He was the first African American commandant of midshipmen at the academy. He is a phenomenal leader… it is different and inspiring to see someone who looks like you and achieves at that great level,” explained Manuel.
Some Sailors at the base feel that Black History Month is a time to remind all Americans that African American history is American history and that it plays a critical role in the nation’s identity.
“Black history is American history…it dates back to the American Revolution. In history, they [African Americans] had to find a way out of ‘no way.’ That motivates me to keep their legacy,” said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Terrance Lee Kirkland Jr.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Cody LeDuff is not only inspired by African American history but also believes that it makes up a significant portion of his identity.
“My pop always told me if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know who you are,” said LeDuff. “History reminds us of who we are, where we come from, and where we still have to go.”
Many sailors expressed that they felt empowered when they read about African American history and then could look around in current-day society and see so many African Americans wearing khakis and becoming flag officers. Laduff felt so inspired by this that he is currently in pursuit of earning his gold bars and becoming a limited duty officer. Kirkland is hoping to go to Navy Officer Candidate School and earn a commission.
Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Joey McCrary expressed that the Navy has come a long way in terms of diversity.
“We have come so far… you are no longer bound by the color of your skin,” said McCrary.
The recent commissioning of the aircraft carrier, USS Doris Miller (CVN 81), has also become a touchstone for African American history.
Ensign Milton Walters, a limited duty officer and vice president of his Phi Beta Zigma fraternity chapter, sees the naming of a U.S. carrier after an African American war hero as a moving tribute to bravery and courage. He also believes that it is seen as an overall testament of positive progression in the U.S. Navy.
“It is a breakthrough for diversity. He [Doris Miller] was an old-school hero,” Walters said. “This further drives the point that black history is American history.”
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