Leaders of Marines Meet Leaders of Harlem to Discuss Community, Youth
By Staff Sgt. Amanda Hay
| | June 07, 2005
RECRUITING STATION NEW YORK --
Recruiting Station New York hosted the Inaugural Harlem Leadership Fleet Week Prayer Breakfast at Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem recently gathering leaders of the community and senior military leaders to honor local leaders and discuss the issues affecting the future of our Nation’s youth.
Approximately 40 spiritual leaders, school administrators, elected officials, and civic organizations from Manhattan and Brooklyn gathered for breakfast honoring both Joe Davis, an active member of the Montford Point Marine Association, and Greg Collins, leader of Harlem Youth Marines.
The breakfast also allowed the Marines from RS New York a chance to formally introduce the Marine Corps to the community and to make them more aware of educational opportunities, scholarships and personal and professional development available to those who serve as U.S. Marines.
U.S. Navy Chaplain Louis Rosa, of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, spoke of coming together as leaders of the youth and possessing a sense of obligation for working not only ourselves, but for the people.
Congressman Charles B. Rangel, of the 15th Congressional District, is also an U.S. Army veteran who served from 1948-1952. He spoke about the importance of serving others and giving back to the community during his welcome remarks.
As breakfast came to a close, Major J. J. Dill, commanding officer RS New York, presented the 1st Marine Corps District Distinguished Service Medals to Greg Collins and Joe Davis for their superior performance, consistent service and dedication to the community. The award is presented to only a small number of people each year.
Four senior African-American Marine leaders attended the event to address concerns of the attendees. They have all served more than 20 years as a Marine, come from different parts of the country, and spoke of their personal experiences with getting an education and leading Marines. The guest speakers were: Brig. Gen. Ronald S. Coleman, commanding general of 2nd Force Service Support Group, Col. Ronald L. Bailey, Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, Sgt. Maj. Clifford Milton-Stewart, sergeant major of U.S. Marine Forces Atlantic and Col. John T. Boggs, a native of Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, N.Y., who is now Chairman for the Commandant of the Marine Corps at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington D.C.
Boggs, who has served for more than 29 years in the Marine Corps and has a master’s degree in management and national security policy, emphasized the importance of education. Boggs grabbed everyone’s attention when he spoke of his great grandfather who was a slave named Solomon. He was a slave not due to the shackles on his feet, but due to his inability to read. He then spoke of the need for our youth to be able to look up to heroes.
As the floor opened up for questions, Boggs addressed concern from the attendees of why they should allow their children to serve in the Marine Corps in light of current operations.
As a father of five children, two of which enlisted in the Marine Corps, Boggs said he understood their concern but asked them to look at the bigger picture.
“If we, as African-Americans, do not allow our children to consider the Marines as a serious alternative, we’re missing the mark and we’d be doing a disservice to our youth,” Boggs said. “The U.S. Marines have a better track record than any organization. Marines are men and women of integrity and honor who believe in themselves and their abilities. Once you do four years and get out, you never lose ‘being a Marine,’ which is why Marine led companies, start businesses.”
He further added that Marines in order for the Marines to have minority leadership, minorities have to join. “If we do not allow our youth to join, there will be a force that does not have a demographic mix representative of our American society,” Boggs said.
Today the Marine Corps is completely integrated with every race and is widely recognized for drawing strength from its diversity to better accomplish its warfighting missions. Blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans and other races have significantly contributed to the American experience, as well as fought side by side in defense of freedoms during the course of our history.
After the success of this event, it will be planned annually to maintain communication with the community and the Marine Corps. Master Sgt. Michael McCarther, a Harlem native who has been a Marine for more than 20 years, spoke about the importance of maintaining contact. “It’s important that the community works together with the Marine Corps in order to keep the youth properly informed on the educational opportunities and life-skills that area available to them.”