Peleliu Observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY – Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and birthday with a ceremony presented by the ship’s diversity team, Jan. 20.
The Navy deemed this year’s theme “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on, not a day off”, which empowers the Sailors and Marines to reflect on King’s teachings and his leadership during the Civil Rights Movement through service.
“Its important that USS Peleliu held a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration because a lot of what Peleliu does is encourage teamwork that represents America,” said Lt. j.g. Ashlee Houston, ship’s assistant training officer. “He was a man that definitely represented what the American dream is all about, equality and fairness for all. I think it’s important that we as a military, and as representatives for our country, not lose touch of that.”
The ceremony included an a cappella version of James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson’s song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the African-American national anthem, sung by Yeoman 2nd Class Nicholas Jones and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Valerie Grayson, as well as speeches from the diversity team. Additionally, Peleliu’s Commanding Officer Capt. John D. Deehr and diversity team president Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roseann Robles cut a cake in honor of King and his legacy. The night finished with the movie “Remember the Titans.”
“I really respect Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Yeoman 3rd Class Jonathan Bennett, a Lexington, N.C.-native and diversity team member. “I really felt like he stood out and wanted to make a difference in everything that he did, and I want to incorporate that in everything that I do. I don’t really want to be a follower; I want to be a leader. Martin Luther King was a leader.”
King accepted leadership of the first African American non-violent demonstration in 1955 and led the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. that lasted 382 days. The United States declared the segregation on buses unconstitutional and allowed blacks and whites to ride on buses as equals.
“I think it’s important to give everyone fair treatment and treat everybody the same,” added Houston. “He was a leader of all his people and as an officer I take that to heart. I probably wouldn’t be a commissioned officer and a graduate from the Naval Academy if a man like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t existed.”
Between 1957 and 1968, King spoke more than 2,500 times on injustice, wrote five books and various articles, was arrested nearly 20 times and assaulted at least four. He received five honorary degrees and was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1963.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who devoted his life to something that was higher than himself. He was a believer in love, freedom and sacrifice,” said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Jeremy Heyer, ship’s command managed equal opportunity assistant. “He was an individual that gave everything so someone less fortunate than himself could try to have, and would eventually obtain, the same freedoms that we all have today.”
Also during this time, King headed an immense protest in Birmingham, Ala. that inspired his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a proposal of the non-violent African American movement. Not long after came King’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech in front of nearly 250,000 people during a peaceful march in Washington, D.C.
On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tenn., where he was to lead a protest for the striking sanitation workers of Memphis.
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.