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NPS Community Honors Black History Month
U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Lewis Hunsaker

NPS Community Honors Black History Month

By MC1 Lewis Hunsaker

Retired U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Hugh "Smitty" Smith, Sr. reflects on the many milestones of his 27-year career during NPS' Black History Month celebration in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Auditorium, Feb. 9. Black History Month is an annual observance by the United States, and serves as a remembrance of important people and events in the history of African Americans.

"I must say, it's an honor and a privilege to be here," said Smith. "To see your smiling faces and the way you all look at me turns back the clock to my days in the Army."

Smith proceeded to tell his story, covering milestones in his upbringing, personal life, and military career.

"'We want that boy, we need you in the armed forces, said the U.S. Army. So the Army drafted me for two years, but once they got me they couldn't get rid of me," said Smith.

Over the course of his military career, Smith was stationed at various commands to include the 101st Airborne Division and the 1st Division in Ft. Riley, Kansas. He has seen the service, and the nation as a whole, change considerably throughout his time in service.

"Back when I started in the Army, there was either a white or black unit. Today we are all one unit based on qualifications," said Smith. "You men and women represent an outstanding element."

Black History Month started in 1926 with the observation of "Negro History Week," an initiative led by historian Carter G. Woodson, to recognize the contributions of African Americans to our country. He chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and former President Abraham Lincoln, two people who had a dramatic effect on the lives of African Americans. In 1976, the observance was expanded to include the whole month and has since become commonly referred to as Black History Month or African American History Month.

The event was organized by NPS' Multicultural Heritage Committee, charged with helping the NPS community observe the diverse cultures and backgrounds of today's military.

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February 2017