Remembering MLK: Message of respect applicable to today’s military

  • Published
  • By By Col. Tom Schluckebier
  • 66th Air Base Wing commander
Americans will observe what would have been the 78th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

Had Dr. King lived 78 years, one can only imagine the additional contributions he would have made to our country and our society.

Sadly and tragically, his life was cut short by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968 and we lost the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment).

As a tribute to Dr. King, I hope we will all take at least a few minutes on Monday to reflect on Dr. King's message and then spend some more time thinking about what we can do to spread his message as we go about our daily routines.

It may be as simple as telling our children about Dr. King or it may be as significant as giving a commanders call briefing on the importance of respect for others, the positive power of diversity and the need for equal treatment.

For Air Force members -- civilian and military -- Dr. King's message of respect for others is an essential cornerstone to our three core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do.

That's why the Air Force promotes an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that prevent Air Force members from rising to the highest level of responsibility possible. This type of environment starts with respect for every member of the Air Force team regardless of race, color, national origin, religion or gender.

Dr. King's famous statement, "I have a dream that one day...sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood," is really one way of depicting an environment of mutual respect and appreciation.

A phrase that you've probably heard uttered by numerous Air Force leaders is, "People are our most valuable asset." This statement is very true. It isn't the aircraft or the weapon systems that accomplish a mission -- it's the people. Each person has a tremendous amount to offer to the Air Force, but if they are weighted down by the barrier of disrespect, they cannot reach their full potential.

Respecting each other regardless of differences and recognizing the valuable role each member of our military family plays is imperative.

In the 78 years since Dr. King was born, much has changed in both the world and the military, but the fundamental need to respect others remains constant. On Monday, we pay tribute to Dr. King -- his courage, his leadership and his message. What a great reminder that we all play a vital role in the world's greatest Air Force and we all deserve the respect that Dr. King so aggressively sought for all people.