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120113-N-0369Y- 016 JAPAN, SASEBO (January 13, 2012) - CSSN Xavier Perezmendoza serves Macaroni & Cheese to QM3(SW) Sean Garrett during a special meal honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. “We wanted a traditional sit-down family meal for everyone for this special occasion,” said CSSN(SW) Xavier Perezmendoza, “We work together we deploy together, we eat together… Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is family. We are all family.” USS AVENGER (MCM 1) is home ported in Sasebo, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by LTJG Harrison O. Yelverton IV, Public Affairs Officer)
USS Avenger celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King 
JAPAN, Sasebo – January 16th will be a national holiday celebrating the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; however, USS AVENGER Sailors celebrated the holiday on the 13th, together, as a crew. In a ceremony conducted on the mess decks, several AVENGER Sailors spoke about discrimination in their lives, and how the actions of Dr. King, and civil rights leaders like him, paved the way for equality between races, genders, and faiths.

“We’re all raised from different cultures, and have different experiences” said LCDR Patrick J. Sullivan, Captain of the USS AVENGER (MCM 1) during his address to the crew, “we support and defend the constitution of the United States of America. We defend freedom and equality… we defend the freedom of choice and the civil liberties that Dr. King dedicated his life to. AVENGER embraces its cultural diversity and is a better ship for it.”

ENS Keith Jones, Auxiliaries & Electrical Officer in USS AVENGER, shared a deeply personal story about the discrimination his grandmother faced while growing up in rural South Carolina. “Her brother was a light skinned African-American, who used his blue eyes and curly hair to his advantage. Out of the whole family, only her brother was able to sit in the front of the bus. My grandmother said she was always curious what the white people on the bus would talk about,” said Jones, “my grandmother and her brother were divided by a sign on a bus, two family members living in the same world, but experiencing different privileges.”

“We celebrate the life of Dr. King together as an AVENGER family. Even though we might look different or speak differently, our trials, tribulations, the way we feel… We’re no different at all.” said MMC(SW) William Stewart, USS AVENGER Command Management Equal Opportunity (CMEO) Advisor. “The US Navy is a place where we pride ourselves not as individuals, but on our identity as a group. We are all shipmates. Like Dr. King said: men should ‘not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’”

Unlike other holidays, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is celebrated as a day of service. IT2(SW) Herman Bennett challenged his shipmates to teach others about discrimination and to educate people on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. “We’re forward deployed, we all have friends out it town, on our day off, let’s educate our friends and families on the impact of one life on the world. We can all make a difference,” said Bennett. “It's not a day to go shopping or sleep in. It's a time to remember the dream Dr King had for all people, to remember his life of service and to use the day to educate, or do something for others…”

One could only hear the sound of the Culinary Specialists preparing the special meal for the crew during the moment of silence on the mess decks, “We wanted a traditional sit-down family meal for everyone for this special occasion,” said CSSN(SW) Xavier Perezmendoza, “We work together we deploy together, we eat together… Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is family. We are all family.” The USS AVENGER is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan.

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