Yokosuka, Japan - The Heritage Committee aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted a ceremony to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, influence and achievements on the ship's mess deck.
The event commemorated Dr. King's non-violent protests against racial inequality and recognized his courage and moral-fortitude to encourage the nation to join his mission for diversity and equality.
"I step forward and pay my respects to a leader, mentor and visionary," said Master Chief Avionics Technician Gerald Williams, the ceremony's guest speaker. "Like the founding father who gave birth to the nation, I consider Dr. King a futuristic father that helped an immature, adolescent country become a mature, conscious nation."
During the ceremony, Sailors shared personal opinions about King's influence during the civil rights movement, his enduring effect on the integration of American culture and the nation's progress toward peace and equality.
"It is through the incredible legacy of great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King that we all are capable of obtaining equal education, equal access to government support and have equal opportunity to work for our government," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Karseem Fletcher, master of ceremonies. "As we are gathered here to celebrate the equality that exists in and outside of the Navy, I am confident that the courage of one man provided the path for freedom and equality for all."
The ceremony also included a history lesson on the results of actions from several individuals and groups, such as Rosa Parks, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who helped the fight for equality.
"The significance of [King's] story and his impact to American history define the relevance of past, current, and future actions for our country and the world at large," said Williams. "I feel Dr. King would be proud of our military."
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Stephanie Lollis, from Dallas, felt that the ceremony's message resonated throughout the crew.
"In this Navy, we're all a huge melting pot of people," said Lollis. "We all have different backgrounds, customs and beliefs. I can see the diversity the Navy has [aboard George Washington] and on base and it's great. This event really taught me a lot about the achievements and the positive change the nation has taken since the 1960's."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.