Tell your story: Maj. John S. Nolan Jr.
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- I've been strongly influenced by Martin Luther King Jr., Colonel Charles Young, Nelson Mandela and so many other African Americans who have trail blazed the path that enabled so many opportunities that we sometimes take for granted.
Each of these leaders did not settle for the easy road to successfully achieve their objectives. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life in the quest to see our nation live out the true meaning of its creed -- that all men are created equal.
As for Colonel Charles Young, when he graduated from the prestigious West Point Academy in 1889, he was the third African American to have accomplished that feat. It was amazing and an almost unheard of accomplishment and it took nearly 50 years before another African American graduated from West Point. In pursuit of his goal to show African Americans could lead soldiers as officers in our country's military, he became the first African American superintendent of Sequoia National Parks, the first black U.S. military attaché, the first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and the highest-ranking black officer until his death in 1922. My attempt and daily reflection on their level of drive, perseverance, and pursuit of achievements above the standard directly influences my aim to be a better Airman in the U.S. Air Force.
Nelson Mandela exemplified how barriers can never be used as an excuse to not achieve goals you set for yourself. Even though he served 27 years in prison -- one of his many barriers -- within a racially divided South Africa, he still was an integral component to bringing an end to apartheid and eventually became the first black president of South Africa following his release from prison. It is the great perseverance that these individuals and so many other African Americans displayed that continues to motivate and inspire me. Nelson Mandela stated, "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that here are many more hills to climb."
This message drives me to not get overwhelmed by the numerous barriers of meeting daily objectives, but to overlook those hills and understand that through perseverance, any goals and objectives can be achieved.
I look to bring awareness to others by enlightening them to some of the great African Americans, past and present, famous and not, who have made a difference within their communities and uplifted our country to be better.
I personally observe Black History Month by reflecting on where we have come and where we can go to continue to build on the great diverse country we are privileged to defend. Additionally, I take time to educate my children on the many great accomplishments of African Americans.
The biggest takeaway from this recognition is that African American culture, heritage and accomplishments have and will continue to play a significant role in contributing to the United States' successes and solutions to problems we face.
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.