Eglin Air Force Base Celebrates Black History Month

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By Kevin Gaddie

Eglin Air Force Base celebrated Black History Month with this year’s theme “Black Resiliency.” Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jonathan Holmes, founder of the African American Heritage Military Society, shared what resiliency means to him during the kick-off ceremony. Holmes, an Army and Air Force veteran, lost a kidney while serving as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. After persevering through 12 years of dialysis and receiving a new kidney, he continued serving the military by founding the society. “There were a lot of people in my life, who blessed me with their strength and helped me become resilient,” he said. “I established the society for them. I feel it serves as a symbol to the African American men and women who served in uniform. It is a symbol of their resiliency.”

In his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. Jeff Geraghty, 96th Test Wing commander, spoke about African American engineering aviation battalions, who made significant contributions in the base’s expansion during World War II. “It was these newly formed battalions, while training for war, that transformed Eglin’s landscape,” he said.

The battalion personnel dealt with sweltering heat while cutting through dense forests to construct new roads, buildings and bridges, to pave the way for Eglin’s future. Their primary mission was airfield construction and repair. The airfields proved pivotal for Allied aircraft bombers as they returned riddled with bullets, and often broken as they landed. Their contributions and sacrifices played a vital role in shaping our nation’s history and securing its freedom.

Geraghty asked the attendees to not only celebrate the month’s events, but to form a united front in looking to the future with hope and determination. “Together, we must continue to strive for a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity within our Air Force,” he said. “We must recognize our differences are our strengths and together we are an unstoppable force.”