Remembering their Courage: 2018 Black History Month Celebration at Base Portsmouth

A group of speakers and attendees stand together at the 2018 Black History Month celebration at Base Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2018. The event was a celebration of African-American legacy, achievements and contributions in the armed forces to the nation in time of war. (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup)

 

Written by Lt. j.g. Mimose Parvilus and Wilma Neal

Over 100 members of U.S. Coast Guard Base Portsmouth took part in 2018 Black History Month by celebrating African-American legacy, achievements, and contributions to the armed forces during times of war, with guest speakers who discussed their first hand experiences, Feb. 20.

Guest speakers were retired Master Chief Petty Officer Vince Patton III, the first African-American Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard; retired Sgt. Harry Quinton, U.S. Air Force, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and retired Lt. Col. T.J. Spann, Air Force, and former president of the Tidewater Chapter Tuskegee Airmen Inc.

Kicking off the event was a slide-show illustrating the history of African-American service members and the progress that has been made over the years in regard to diversity in the armed services.

Dr. Harry Quinton, U.S. Air Force Sgt. retired and one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, shares laughs with fellow military members at the 2018 Black History Month celebration at Base Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2018. The event was a celebration of African-American legacy, achievements and contributions in the armed forces to the nation in time of war. (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup)

Patton discussed being inspired and strengthened by the indelible influence his father, retired Major Thomas C. Patton, U.S. Army, a Vietnam War veteran, and his older brother, retired Capt. Greg Patton, U.S. Navy, and their positive impact on his decision to join the military when he was 17 years old. Patton shared his father’s accomplishments during a time when there was a tremendous amount of cultural adversity. Despite those challenges, Patton reiterated the positive influence he gained through his father’s experience and attitude of humility, determination and dedication while serving in the army. He also spoke on the importance of looking for the silver lining in every circumstance and to approach life with an optimistic view regardless of the situation.

Quinton discussed his time in the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-Americans in the U.S. Army Air Corp. He shared his experience from his assignment at the 477th Bombardment Group and the 602nd Air Engineering Squadron at Godman Army Airfield, Fort Knox, Kentucky, as an airplane mechanic. He discussed the mindset of working hard with his fellow servicemen at the 477th and 602nd units, and how his training was based on learning everything possible about the equipment. Quinton also discussed what scenes were not real and created by directors in movies about the Tuskegee Airman.

Finishing off the celebration, Spann gave attendees an overview of what being a Tuskegee Airmen consisted of, as well as the many accomplishments and challenges overcome by service members who created a path for different cultures in the future of the armed services.

A group of speakers and attendees stand together at the 2018 Black History Month celebration at Base Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Virginia, Feb. 20, 2018. The event was a celebration of African-American legacy, achievements and contributions in the armed forces to the nation in time of war. (U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup)