SEC African American History Month Celebration Introductory Remarks for Command Sergeant Major Michael L. Gragg
Feb. 22, 2018
Good afternoon. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the African American Council, the Veteran’s Committee, and the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion for their efforts in connection with today’s event. I am honored and very happy to be here
This month, we have had the opportunity to celebrate and pay tribute to the significant contributions of African Americans to our Nation. This year’s theme, “African Americans in Times of War,” commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918. This theme invites us to reflect upon the contributions of African Americans during our Nation’s military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to present-day operations.[i]
We, all of us, are major benefactors of the sacrifices of those that have come before us. And those sacrifices continue today. Members of our Armed Forces serve to secure freedom, security and justice for all. African Americans have bravely served in every American military conflict despite often being denied the very principles they were fighting for. These acts of selfless valor in the face of discrimination and intolerance are a reminder that members of our Armed Forces resolutely put public service and the promise of a better future for all before – well before – their individual interest.[ii]
I will offer some specific examples. Today, we honor the sacrifices of soldiers like Sergeant William H. Carney, who was the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Battle of Fort Wagner in the Civil War. He was a member of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment – the first African-American regiment raised during the Civil War.[iii]
We celebrate trailblazers like Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., who was the first African American to become a general in any branch of the U.S. military.[iv] We admire his son, pilot Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who persevered in the face of racism and dispelled racial myths – from his days as the only African American cadet at West Point in 1932 to his ground-breaking service as the commander of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. He later became the first African American general in the United States Air Force. [v]
We reflect on the contributions of Colin Powell, who became the first African-American appointed as the U.S. Secretary of State. Colin Powell served 35 years in the Army, achieving the rank of general and serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military officer in the U.S. Armed Forces – the first African American to do so.[vi]
We also recognize the achievements of Lt. General Nadja West, the current Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command. Among other things, Lt. General West is the first African American U.S. Army Surgeon General and the first African American female Lieutenant General in the Army.
This brings me to our honored guest today.
Command Sergeant Major Michael L. Gragg is the senior enlisted advisor to Lt. General West.[vii] Over the last 28 years, Command Sergeant Major Gragg has held numerous leadership positions in the U.S. Army, including in the areas of medical evacuations, intelligence, operations, and initial military training.
I have had the pleasure of spending a few minutes chatting with Command Sergeant Major Gragg. Like the service men and women we honor today, he puts public service first. And that service has not gone unnoticed. He has been awarded the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Campaign Star just to name a few.[viii]
In addition, Command Sergeant Major Gragg has earned the Expert Field Medical Badge, Air Assault and Senior Parachutist Badges, Flight Crew and Drill Sergeant Identification Badges, and the Order of Military Medical Merit. He also is a member of the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.[ix]
Thank you Command Sergeant Major Gragg for your leadership and the sacrifices you have made on behalf of our country.
Please join me in welcoming Command Sergeant Major Gragg.
[i] See Association for the Study of African American Life and History Announces 2018 Black History Theme, “African American in Times of War,” available at https://asalh.org/african-americans-in-times-of-war/.
[ii] President Donald J. Trump Proclaims February 2018 as National African American History Month (Jan. 31, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-february-2018-national-african-american-history-month/.
[iii] See U.S. Army, “African-American Heroes, Profiles in Courage: William H. Carney,” available at https://www.goarmy.com/black-history/profiles-in-courage/profiles-carney.html.
[iv] See U.S. Army, “African-American Heroes, Profiles in Courage: Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.,” available at https://www.goarmy.com/black-history/profiles-in-courage/profiles-davis.html.
[v] See Richard Goldstein, “General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Dies at 89,” The New York Times (July 7, 2002), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/06/us/general-benjamin-o-davis-jr-dies-at-89.html.
[vi] See U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, “Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Colin Luther Powell,” available at https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/powell-colin-luther.; see also U.S. Army, “African-American Heroes, Profiles in Courage: Colin L. Powell,” available at https://www.goarmy.com/black-history/profiles-in-courage/profiles-powell.html.
[vii] See “MEDCOM Welcomes New Command Sergeant Major,” U.S. Army (Nov. 3, 2017), available at https://www.army.mil/article/196411/medcom_welcomes_new_command_sergeant_major.
[viii] See id.
[ix] See id.