Black history: look a little closer

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leticia Hopkins
  • 347th Rescu Wing Public Affairs
I think it's great, during Black History Month, we stop and reflect on the important things that occurred in the black community as a whole.

That said, every year we seem to focus on the same influential people. While they deserve all the credit and respect given to them, there are many other "unsung" black heroes from our past and today.

Black history should encompass all of those who have made a difference and should give youth the hope to make things better in the future.

After thinking of my own family, I realized they also have played a role in black history, while creating a family tradition of service.

My maternal grandfather, James Ingram, served on nuclear submarines in the U.S. Navy for 21 years before retiring in 1969 from active-duty service.

My paternal grandfather, Stephen Hopkins, joined the Army at 18 years old, one month before the Korean War began. He fought in the war for five months before he was captured by the Chinese. He walked from winter until spring, to get to the prison camp where he would spend the next two-and-a-half years of his life.

The first task he had to perform was catching 50 flies a day. His group also cleared roads and built makeshift playgrounds.

They were forced to look at pictures and watch films of the injustice blacks received in America. After being shown these images, they were asked how they could fight for a country allowing that kind of injustice.

Fifteen days after the war ended, he was released.

My grandfather said he was proud of his service. If he could, he would have stayed in the military. He valued his service even as some people made comments about how African Americans should not serve their country. He felt being in America was a blessing, especially after seeing how others lived.

Military service did not stop with my grandfather; my father Gregory Hopkins joined the Air Force at the age of 17. He served the military during several operations and had the chance to impact many fellow Airmen.

As a first sergeant, he looked out for his troops. Many people have told me how he helped them with their careers and lives. My father never made a big deal about his job. He said his actions were normal, and they were what should be done. In today's world, we can't always find someone willing to help us succeed, much less if we have had a few stumbles along the way.

My dad retired as a master sergeant and is continuing to positively influence people with his current job as a Junior ROTC instructor.

Like others in my family, I too joined the military. I've deployed to Germany and Iraq. I met many injured Soldiers and Airmen who would serve all over again, even though their dedicated service left them permanently disabled.

I always thought I understood the importance of being in the military; especially as some gave their lives for freedoms others enjoy every day. I also knew my family was made up of great and brave people. But now, my own experiences have led me to share the pride my grandfathers and father had in the military.

Black history is more than just blacks making progress for blacks; it is anything they do to impact any person's life. We should also remember there were many people helping blacks progress, and America's black history is made up of all these different people.

Talk to your family, and you may learn you have a little-known black history fact within your own family.