Honoring ‘The Dream’

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Liberty Wing members gathered for an event, here, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jan. 21.

Known as, “A Day On, Not A Day Off,” MLK Day provides the nation a time to pause to remember Dr. King’s life and work, and serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“As we remember Dr. King on his birthday, let’s recommit ourselves to the standard he set —inclusiveness, equality and acts of service and continue to rise together as a nation to the challenges that remain,” said Master Sgt. David Thomas, 48th Medical Group Public Heath Flight section chief.

In 1983, Congress passed a bill designating MLK’s birthday as a holiday. This year the Liberty Wing honored his memory with a 5K run and a personal testimony from main speaker, Cynthia Neldner, 48th Medical Group Health Promotion program coordinator.

“Both of my parents were very active during the civil rights movement and they marched side by side with many activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King,” Neldner said. “I grew up knowing something wasn’t right. Fighting for our rights and our future was important to my parents.”

Neldner’s parents instilled the importance of equality, participating in marches and other peaceful protests while fighting for their children’s future.

Her father, who was black, was from Tennessee, and her mother, who was white, was from Wisconsin, she said.

“They started dating in the 1960’s under Jim Crow laws, where it was illegal to do that in certain states, Neldner said. “They definitely took a lot of risks and displayed a lot of courage just to be together at that time.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, many influential leaders in the community fought for equal rights, and not many were able to see what they changed with their efforts.

“This is a way to pay homage to all of the folks that have paved the way to the equality my parents wanted for [my siblings and I],” Neldner said.

On Aug. 28, 1963, about 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., to rally for civil and economic rights, as Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“My parents were among all the folks there, and at the time it was the largest march of the civil rights movement,” Neldner said. “This year we celebrate 56 years since that speech, and although we’ve fulfilled a lot of his dream, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Col. William Marshall, 48th Fighter Wing commander, thanked Liberty Wing members who attended the event to honor Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

“Dr. King was born in the deep south in 1929, and by 25 years later, he’d become the leader of one of the most — if not the most — significant social movements of all time,” Marshall said. “He was a tremendous man, who taught us, and helped the country learn and understand that we are stronger when we all work together despite, race, religion, or creed.”