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North Carolina ROTC event highlights Black military veteran contributions

All the cadets and speakers of the event pose for a picture in the auditorium.
The NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
All the cadets and speakers of the event pose for a picture in the auditorium.

Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed Thursday as African American Military Veterans' Lineage Day to honor Black people who serve in the military. It was read aloud during the North Carolina Department of Military and Veteran Affairs’ 3rd annual ROTC RoundTable event at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh.

A panel of former and active Black military personnel shared their experiences about navigating the military as officers. Col. Wendy Rivers, the Division Chief of the Department of Army Inspector General, told the cadets that it's important to have a mentor while serving in the military.

“You must have somebody who's going to tell you even when it gets tough, [to] keep going," Rivers said. “Because it doesn't matter where you come from and it doesn't matter the color of your skin.”

Other leaders talked about the historic perseverance from African Americans, like the Buffalo Soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen. Retired Lt. Gen. Walter Gaskin, the state’s secretary of Military and Veteran Affairs, said there are many notable Black troops in every branch that paved the way for Black people to be in leadership positions.

“Because of the Montford Point Marines, I am able to be a Marine,” Gaskin said.

The first Black recruits to enter the U.S. Marine Corps arrived at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina in the late 1940s.

Several universities, colleges and high schools with ROTC programs attended, including Shaw University, North Carolina A&T State University, Enloe Magnet High School and Sanderson High School. Nearly 200 North Carolina ROTC and JROTC members from those institutions showed up at Thursday’s event.

Sharryse Piggott is WUNC’s PM Reporter.
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