BLAZING A TRAIL: African-American Army leaders celebrate Black History Month at Shaw Air Force Base

SUMTER, SC (WOLO) — President Harry Truman established an order that got rid of segregation in the military almost 74 years ago. 

Wednesday at Shaw Air Force Base, soldiers celebrated Black History Month and the accomplishments of African-Americans in the military at a US Army Central ceremony. The them of the ceremony was ‘Black Wellness’.

“Getting physical training, consuming nutritious meals that help build our bodies and getting the proper amount of sleep. That’s the performance triad and what it’s about,” said Lt. Gen. Ronald Clark, US Army Central commanding general.

Being a healthy person is more than just about physical health.

“You don’t get wellness without mental health and spiritual wellness because that’s the inner person. That inner person projects for the outer person,” said Col. Khalid Shabazz, who served as the guest speaker.

Colonel Shabazz knows this first hand. He recounts being at his lowest point 24 years ago.

“I’ll be pretty transparent here. I was drunk. I was a bad husband and even worse father. I had just received two article 15s. I was about to be chaptered out of the army,” Shabazz said.

The colonel says he planned to commit suicide until a leader in the military helped him turn his life around. He now does the same for soldiers he meets who are struggling today, giving one example of a young man he met in the gym.

“I told him my story about almost being chaptered out of the army and suicide. He said ‘Thank you chaplain, I’m going to go back to drill sergeant school and I’m going to pass.’ He went back to drill sergeant school in Ft. Jackson and passed,” the colonel said. “We brought him here and gave him a coin. Those interactions are everything.”

He also impressed upon the soldiers that leadership is not about everything it seems.

“Leadership is not about income, it’s about outcome,” Shabazz said. “What I meant by that is that it’s not about chasing the next rank or doing everything that’s pleasing to your leader. You have to stand in your values and your integrity even if it may cost you the next rank or position.”

Those who are in positions of leadership thank those that came before them who pioneered the way for African-Americans in the military. 

Lieutenant general Clark’s uncle was part of the first integrated units during the Korean War.

“This is my 33rd year of service. To be able to continue that legacy of service in the Army for my family is a huge deal,” Clark said. “When I think about Black History Month, those living legends who have blazed the trail to give the opportunity to me and others to serve is really special.”

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