2021 African American History Month

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Capt. Jamie Boudreaux

143rd Airlift Wing, Rhode Island Air National Guard

Boudreaux, an instructor pilot with the 143rd Airlift Wing, says this observance "is an opportunity for everyone to come together and remember that we are all human and that we need to care more for each other." It is also when he looks back at the previous year and asks himself, "How did I help others around me and where can I do better for the future?"

Sgt. 1st Class Melissa S. D. Branch

Joint Force Headquarters, Alaska National Guard

Branch has served 30 years in the Marine Corps and the Arizona and Alaska Army National Guard. This month, she says, "is the celebration of African American achievements in food, textiles, air, space and electronic industries that shaped the history of the United States of America."

Staff Sgt. Leonard Burrell

88th Army Band, Rhode Island Army National Guard

Burrell has served in the Guard almost 22 years and is a percussionist. "Me being an African American Soldier, to be able to serve in this country makes me feel very proud. Proud to represent more than just who I am in more ways than one."

Tech. Sgt Jemille R. Charlton

106 Maintenance Operations Flight, New York Air National Guard

Charlton, a member of the New York Air National Guard for more than two decades, considers this observance "a time to reflect on the sacrifices that many men and women made so that I can put on my boots every day."

Col. Steve Collins

Joint Force Headquarters, Nebraska National Guard

Collins was active-duty Army and Reserve before joining the Guard in 2003. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of his heroes. "As the son of a 26-year military veteran who served during the era of segregation in our nation, I realize that the fruits of every achievement and success I’ve tasted are attributable to the toil, sweat, desires and sacrifices of those who have gone before me."

Maj Eric L. Durkins II

105th Maintenance Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Durkins, an aircraft maintenance officer who joined in 1996, says of this month's observance: "The National Guard’s diversity is a strength. If we can draw upon our collective experiences, we will be a stronger force."

Staff Sgt. Tia Freeman

236th Intelligence Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard

Freeman is a geospatial analyst with the 236th Intelligence Squadron. "Black history month allows me to pay homage to those who came before me who paved the space that I occupy today. My grandfather lived through segregation. Today I share an office with people of all backgrounds."

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Lewis

Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 109th Multi-functional Medical Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard

Lewis, who has served in the military since 1981, wishes people would heed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, "which was meant to join our country, not divide our country. We would not have all the issues that we are having today."

Senior Master Sgt. Shelana Malone

176th Operations Support Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard

Malone, who has served in the Air National Guard and in active duty since 1997, says people this month "learn how my culture contributed to sports, space, entertainment, poetry, journalism, politics, civil rights, etc. ... It means people see color, my color, and they embrace it."

Command Sgt. Maj. John F. Sampa

Army National Guard director's office, National Guard Bureau

Sampa, the first African American command sergeant major of the ARNG, says "many folks have paved the way for my success. Being part of this observance supports my attempt to pave the way for many more to be just as successful as I in their military or army career."

1st Lt. Damina Townes

106th Force Support Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Townes has served since 2011 and says African American Heritage Month "encourages me to reflect on the lives and achievements of people that look like me and the barriers they had to break. ... I hope to inspire individuals to pursue their dreams, be proud of who they are and strive for their full potential."

Senior Airman Deniea Turner

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Turner, who joined the Guard in 2016, says this observance "represents the proud heritage of me and my people. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on our past and look forward to our future as we continue to grow as a people within this country."

Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. (Lamar) Whitehead

Senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Virginia

The Air National Guard's Whitehead has served more than 38 years. African American Heritage Month "reminds me that the American Dream is not exclusive, achieving it is easier for some than others, and progress doesn't diminish a struggle – it's proof that hard work, persistence and faith are enduring!"

Chief Master Sgt. Maurice L. Williams

Office of the Command Chief of the Air National Guard, Virginia

Williams joined the Guard in 1987 and says this observance "marks the significant contributions African Americans have made to America and the rest of the world. Black History Month means honor, culture, opportunity, possibility and respect."