Tell your story: Chief Master Sgt. Kevin F. Kiner
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali are the two greatest African American influences in my life. I was a kid when Dr. King was assassinated and I then learned firsthand about the civil rights struggle. I learned from his struggle to have faith in what you stand for and believe is right, and to never sacrifice your values just because it's the safe thing to do.
I grew up watching Muhammad Ali and knew him as Cassius Clay before he changed his name. As an athlete, I was impressed with his skills and ability. Even though our country was embroiled in the Vietnam War, he refused the draft and even though I was only a kid, I realized he was standing for what he believed in. Although many disagreed with his decision - some even in my family -- he stood for his beliefs.
I've been influenced to be a better Airman by believing I have value, as do all people, and to treat others with respect and value their opinions and ideas as well as your own. Sometimes you may have to agree to disagree, but respect their views and you may learn something. I incorporate this message by believing in myself and my values and applying them to what I do personally and professionally.
I was young during some of the rough periods our country faced but grew close to the history. Some young people don't have much knowledge of the civil rights period or a real attachment to it. I would tell them to read about it or watch documentaries and learn from it. You can only move forward if you learn from the past. As cliché as that is, we can learn from the civil rights struggle and use some of the principles and strategies to resolve everyday struggles, whether they're large or small.
The biggest message individuals can take away from African American History Month is there will always be struggle but we can overcome any obstacle if we join together and treat each other with dignity and respect.
Editor's Note: Throughout February, Airmen across Misawa will share their thoughts on how African American history and culture have inspired them, and how they celebrate the month-long observance.