2024 Black History Month

Sgt. Mubaraq Adanlawo

27th Finance Battalion, New York Army National Guard

Adanlawo joined the Guard in 2021, "proud to be part of the 1% and fulfill my childhood dream." He says Black History Month "celebrates the diaspora's diverse history and forgotten figures. BHM encourages us to reflect on the past, present and future. Finally, it motivates and reminds us of the year-long struggle needed to overcome societal inequalities."

Master Sgt. Walter L. Allen III

105th Airlift Wing,137th Airlift Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Allen, a C-5/C-17 loadmaster, has served since 2000, with recent deployments to Germany and Qatar. He also participated in State Partnership Program exchanges with Brazil and South Africa. "I haven't centered my career around seeking recognition, so being highlighted is a bit unfamiliar and has required encouragement from my peers and subordinates. Unapologetically proud of being Black and an Airman, my focus is not on having my career acknowledged for its longevity and accomplishments. The true highlight I seek is the recognition for the positive impact on lives and the upliftment of Airmen, irrespective of race, religion, or gender, throughout my career."

Staff Sgt. Gerald H. Austin

177th Military Police Brigade, Michigan National Guard

Austin, a Guardsman since 2010, deployed to Guantanamo Bay in 2013 and served in Liberia, Africa. He says this month's observance ensures a diverse and inclusive workforce where all Soldiers are valued. "Black history is essential for African American Soldiers as it provides a strong sense of identity and belonging, connecting us to a rich legacy of courage and resilience. It serves as inspiration, showing how African Americans have overcome adversity and discrimination to achieve greatness."

Staff Sgt. James Baehr

138th Attack Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Baehr joined the Guard in 2016 for the educational benefits and says the military has exposed him to skills and experiences he can use in future careers. This observance "highlights the achievements of all Black service members within the military. There are not a whole lot of us in a predominantly white career field, but the ones that are here shine bright and have a positive impact in the workforce. I am one of three persons of color in my entire building of roughly 200+ people. It is important to be recognized alongside my fellow Black military members while also reaching out and exposing military opportunities to Black communities. By recruiting and broadcasting Black excellence within the armed forces we can inspire more people of color to serve, thus boosting more integrated bases, workplaces and branches of service worldwide."

Sgt. 1st Class Vanessa Bain

3/54th Security Force Assistance Brigade, Florida Army National Guard

Bain has served since 2007, including missions to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guyana. "This observance is a celebration of understanding our history. It is a reminder of what we’ve overcome. It is inspiring to see the efforts developed to promote justice and equality."

Tech. Sgt. Shane Beckford

174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard

Beckford has served since 2013, including a 2022-23 deployment to Jordan. The security forces Guardsman says Black History Month highlights "the contributions made to this great country by people of color and the progress we have made as a country."

2nd Lt. Francois Comlan Bocovo

Higher Headquarters Company, 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Illinois Army National Guard

Bocovo, a signal officer from Benin in West Africa, joined the Guard in 2015. "This observance provides a platform to spotlight the noteworthy accomplishments of Black leaders, artists, activists and everyday individuals who have made substantial impacts across various fields."

Maj. Trevor C. Boyd

Joint Force Headquarters, Nebraska Army National Guard

Boyd joined the Guard in 2007 "to serve, protect and defend my country, my neighbors and the American way of life." He deployed to Djibouti in 2015. "Black History Month is how I learned about courageous leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass and others who surmounted overwhelming odds. Such heroes decided to act when it would have been easier and more comfortable to do nothing. Without their bravery, I would not have the great privileges that I have today, and I can only hope to be as brave as them."

Staff Sgt. Malik Brooks

174th Attack Wing Hancock Field/Operations Support Squadron, New York National Guard

Brooks joined the Guard in 2016 "to instill discipline, structure, and personal development in my life." A cyber defense enterprise operations journeyman, he says this month's observance enables us to "better examine the systems, policies and perceptions that shape our society. In doing so, we can all promote a climate of equity and unity among our fellow Americans irrespective of race."

Master Sgt. Thomas T. Brooks

174th Attack Wing Recruiting, New York Air National Guard

Brooks joined the Air Guard after a 16-year career in the Air Force. The best part of serving, he says, is "knowing that there was something bigger in the world that was available and having the opportunity to be a part of it. ... This observance acts as a reminder of where our country once was, in some cases still is, and how we can press on to be better as one nation. It allows others to learn and realize that there are many things we wouldn’t have today if it weren’t for the intelligence and influence of those who may not look like them. This is a constant reminder we all need each other as humanity is a diverse blend of color."

Staff Sgt. Shanice Buckhalton

Joint Force Headquarters, Minnesota Army National Guard

Buckhalton has served in the Guard for more than 10 years, including a 2019-20 deployment to Kuwait and a State Partnership Program exchange in Norway. She says this observance "gives people a chance to learn about a culture other than their own ... to learn and ask questions about topics that may otherwise be seen as uncomfortable. It also highlights the incredible achievements and contributions that African Americans have made to both the military and the world."

Staff Sgt. Devion E. Burns

Joint Force Headquarters Headquarters Detachment, California Army National Guard

Burns has served since 2012, including a 2018 deployment to Afghanistan. He says joining the Guard was the greatest decision of his life. "Black History Month is a great time to learn about the lesser-known Black figures that helped shape the world we live in today. There are tons of historic Black leaders that do not get the praise they deserve."

Staff Sgt. Kenneth V. Cockrel III

127th Security Forces Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard

Cockrell, a Guardsman since 2012, is deployed to the Middle East for Operation Spartan Shield. He has participated in a State Partnership Program exchange in Denmark and, at home, helped citizens during the COVID pandemic and Flint water crisis. This month's observance means a lot to him. "Black American veterans have fought and died in all of America’s wars. Even though many had to fight for the right to do so. This observance honors those Black men and women who paved the way for Black Americans like myself to serve today. I honor them and salute their service and sacrifice."

1st Lt. Madonna Coleman

128th Field Feeding Platoon, Illinois Army National Guard

Coleman, a quartermaster, joined the Guard in 2017. "My favorite part of serving is seeing my growth from a child with dreams and aspirations to an adult with the ability to make my dreams a reality." She says Black History Month "is a time within the year you are intentional in viewing the perspectives of the world. There are so many people, so many cultures, and I take this month to reflect on where I am but also where other people in the world are."

Cpl. Dasianelle Cotton

139th Mobile Public Affairs Attachment, Illinois Army National Guard

Cotton joined the Guard in 2019 for the discipline and to help her succeed in school. She says Black History Month is "a way to honor Guardsmen from our past and present."

Sgt. Manuel Diaz

1011th Engineer Company, Puerto Rico National Guard

Diaz, a carpentry and masonry specialist, joined the Guard in 2010 to find purpose and take care of his daughter. “I believe that there is much to be learned about what being Black means, and Black History Month is a great opportunity to express how proud I am of Black history and other Afro-Puerto Rican service members like the great baseball player Roberto Clemente who is from Carolina, Puerto Rico, just like me.”

Spc. Matthew Dixon

104th Maintenance Company, 74th Troop Command, District of Columbia National Guard

Dixon, a wheeled vehicle mechanic, joined the Guard in 2014. Highlights of his service include supporting the COVID-19 mission and the pope's visit in 2015. "Black History Month is a celebration of recognition of what our people went through, their resilience and how they overcame oppression to help reinvent themselves for the betterment of the nation. It’s also acknowledging the contributions made to the nation that people may not know about. There are Black inventions that changed the way we live, travel and work, and this is a month to educate and inspire. For instance, Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask and the three-position traffic signal, both lifesaving safety devices. Yet how many military members or members of the American public know this?"

Sgt. Nicholas Ejiogu

HHB, 1st Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery, Arkansas Army National Guard

Ejiogu, a signal operations support specialist and civilian firefighter, joined the Guard in 2018 to "serve my country, see the world and pay for college." He recently volunteered for a State Partnership Program exchange to Guatemala. Black History Month, Ejiogu says, "means meeting or exceeding the standards of the Army while being an African American."

Officer Candidate Funsho Falode

C Company, 260th Military Intelligence Battalion, Illinois National Guard

Falode joined the Guard in 2022 to challenge himself. A Nigerian American, he says this observance means a great deal. "Black history is rich, but sadly, it doesn’t get the deserved exposure or it’s simply unspoken. Having a month to showcase the history, accomplishments of Black people and to acknowledge their strides is a step in the right direction. The entire month is also to reflect and think forward. Reminisce on how far the Black community has come and how much more we can do."

Sgt. Trenton Fouché Jr.

Illinois National Guard Joint Force Headquarters

Fouché followed his parents and brother into the military in 2015. "It’s important to inspire others, and I believe that celebrating Black History Month does that. There are a lot of Black service members that were never recognized, appreciated or respected for their contributions. It’s important that we ensure that they are honored."

Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin L. Garris

Headquarters Detachment, New York National Guard

Garris has served since 1984, including a 2020 deployment to Kuwait. He was a Buffalo policeman for 26 years, but says "being a Soldier is who I am. ... It is very important to me to know that our great nation has set aside an entire month to remember the struggles, failures, sacrifices and accomplishments of a people. It says we as a people are on the right path to embrace our cultural differences and celebrate those things that make this nation great, by observing the equity in everyone and treating each other with dignity and respect."

Spc. Gregory Gaudin

B Battery, 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Louisiana Army National Guard

Gaudin, a cannon crew member, joined the Guard in 2019. "I had always held the Army in high regards because of my grandfather’s service as a radar specialist during the Korean War. I realized that the best chance at improving my prospects for the future would be to enlist." Gaudin hopes to participate in a Louisiana Guard-Belize State Partnership Program exchange. He says Black History Month "represents the pride that the African American community shares in the challenges we have overcome throughout our history, and it should serve as a reminder to remain resilient and positive in the face of the adversities that we all face in life. As a Guardsman, I strive to serve as an example of professionalism and excellence for the African American community."

Capt. Kerron Gilford

Medical Group, New York National Guard

Gilford, a physician assistant, joined the Guard in 2020. He considers Black History Month "an opportunity to showcase the diversity and beauty of being an African American standing on the frontier of greatness."

Tech. Sgt. Charles D. Gresham

109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Gresham says a 17-year career in the Air Force has taken him to places he never thought possible. His last deployment was to Afghanistan. "Black History Month is a blessed time to reflect on the resiliency of the human spirit amid adversity. We reflect this story, a narrative shaped by resilience and triumph over challenges. It serves as a reminder of the strength found in diversity and the collective journey towards a more inclusive and just society. Recognizing the contributions and struggles of my community enriches our understanding of the shared history that unites us all."

Sgt. 1st Class James E. Hutton

Joint Force Headquarters, Minnesota Army National Guard

Hutton joined the Guard in 2008 to make his daughter and son proud, pay for college and continue a family legacy of service. He has deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan. Hutton considers Black History Month "a chance to shed light on the contributions that African Americans have made to help build this nation. It’s a time to acknowledge those individuals that have been left out of the history books and tell their stories."

Lt. Col. Carey J. Jackson IV

46 Military Police Command, Michigan Army National Guard

Jackson has served for more than 22 years, including a 2020 COVID response mission. His most memorable experience in the military was serving as a chaplain assistant. "This observance is important to me because it reminds me and many others of the accomplishments and contributions that may have been either forgotten or not known at all. It is about highlighting efforts of the entire team and bringing into fruition the ideal of camaraderie and the Army values, ultimately, the Army we strive to be."

Brig. Gen. Kevin Jacobs

Joint Force Headquarters, Illinois National Guard

Jacobs joined the Guard in 1984 and has deployed to Southwest Asia and participated in State Partnership Program exchanges with Poland. "Black history is the story of the past and present. This month gives us an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the excellent contributions in engineering, politics, entertainment, literature, education and athletics that Black Americans have done to make this country great."

Sgt. Isaac Laboy

840th Classification and Inspection Company, Puerto Rico National Guard

Laboy joined the Guard in 2015, partly to set an example for his daughter. The highlight of his service, he says, is traveling and meeting people. "Black History Month is important to me because it is a time where I can proudly get in touch and represent the Afro-Latinidad or, in my case, Afro-Puertorriqueñidad, that comes from the mixture of our Spanish, Taino and, most importantly, African ancestors.”

Lt. Col. Vincent Lambert

Joint Force Headquarters, Illinois National Guard

Lambert, a chaplain, joined the Guard in 2008. He deployed to Ukraine in 2020 and participated in a State Partnership Program exchange with Poland. Highlights of his service include ministering to military members and their families and mentoring younger Soldiers. "The Black History Month observance is a time of reflection to remember the service and the sacrifice of African American Soldiers and officers that have served in times past. I understand that I am standing on the shoulders of those before me who served throughout our nation’s history. Because of their sacrifice, my generation has been afforded the opportunities that we have today."

Maj. Aretha Lewis

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

Lewis, a public health officer, joined the Guard in 2020 after more than six years in the active-duty Air Force. "This observance to me means taking the time out to highlight and celebrate my African American heritage and the impact African Americans have had on this country. It also allows a chance to showcase the advancement of African Americans while yet creating excitement of where we can and will go."

Staff Sgt. Courtney Lewis

46th Military Police Command, Michigan Army National Guard

Lewis joined the Guard in 2007 and deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010-11 and supported the COVID response mission in Michigan. "Traveling the world has been a great experience, and serving with my son and nephews at the same time on the same base is hands down one of my best moments." Black History Month "is an awareness that there were others before me that struggled and fought for us to now have opportunities. It is about who we are and where we have come from and gives an opportunity to share African American history and culture."

1st Sgt. Daniel G. London

7th Finance Company, New York Army National Guard

London, a Guardsman since 2007, has deployed to Afghanistan three times. He is a New York City firefighter. London says this month's observance "allows me to take pride in my contributions to a team. As a dedicated and hardworking individual, I consistently prioritize learning and place the needs of Soldiers above my own, reflecting my commitment to service and teamwork."

Capt. Cassandra Love

188th Medical Group, Arkansas Air National Guard

Love joined the Guard in 2003 and deployed to Qatar (2005) and Kyrgyzstan (2009). "I truly live by the sacrifices of my ancestors and strive to create a lasting legacy for future generations. I am inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King's wise words: 'If you can't be a tree, be a bush. If you can't be a highway, be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.'"

Capt. Fenella Lynch

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

Lynch has served since 2005, with deployments to Misawa, Japan, and Kandahar, Afghanistan. She says Black History Month is a way to "highlight and recognize that we have come a far way in history and set the example for future leaders."

1st Lt. Joshua Mains

63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, Kentucky Army National Guard

Mains, a Guardsman since 2014, says the highlight has been learning to fly the UH-60 helicopter and getting to know his fellow service members. "I am extremely thankful to be a part of the Kentucky National Guard and am appreciative of all the opportunities it has provided in life."

Command Sgt. Maj. Debora F. Mallet

Headquarters and Support Company, 642D Aviation Support Battalion, 42D Combat Aviation Brigade, New York Army National Guard

Mallet has served since 1980 and is deployed to Kuwait. She says the highlight of her more than 43 years in uniform is developing leaders. "Black History Month observance, to me, is a time to reflect on, educate and celebrate the significant achievements to the American way of life and to our great nation made by Black Americans while recognizing the difficulties they had to contend with in doing so. It is a time to make a concerted effort to share in the deeply rooted culture of Black people and how they overcame barriers as they faced racial discrimination and oppression."

Spc. Tyniah Malveaux

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Louisiana Army National Guard

Malveaux, a Guardsman since 2020, says the highlight of her service has been helping civilians during hurricane duty and inspiring young people. "It may be cliche, but joining was the best decision that I ever made." She says this month's observance "shows me the appreciation that the Army has for its minority Soldiers. By highlighting our achievements and commitment to serve, it is bringing us closer together as both a people and a team."

Spc. Venice Matthews

34th Division Sustainment Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard

Matthews has served since 2017, completely changing the way she looks at challenges inside and outside the Army. "Although we still have a long way to go, for me, this month is a reminder of how far we’ve come. To have so many Black men and women be acknowledged and praised for their sacrifices and greatness through so much adversity is nothing short of motivating and inspiring. And I’m extremely prideful to know I am cut from the same cloth."

Maj. Joshua McHugh

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

McHugh, a physician, joined the Guard in 2022 to serve military members and the community. "Throughout our nation’s history, Black Americans have served in the military, even at times when the nation treated them as less than human. In spite of these odds, Black military service members believed in America’s promise. Today, I stand on their shoulders. I would be honored by this observance, but I would rather honor and highlight the service and sacrifice of Black military members who have served before us, those who paved the way so that we could be here."

Spc. Malia Nichols

7th Finance Company, New York National Guard

Nichols has served in the Guard since 2020 and works in law enforcement in New York City in her civilian job. She enjoys learning new skills and making lifelong friends on missions such as the COVID-19 response. "Black History Month gives us an opportunity to shine a light on all the exceptional things we have done throughout the years. It's all about positivity and the contributions we have given to the world."

Tech. Sgt. Dominick Pearman

118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard

Pearman joined the Guard in 2015 to continue a family legacy of service. He enjoys changing and shaping the military to bridge the gap between older generations and the new generation. "Observance of Black History Month means to me that the triumphs and adversities of African Americans is not going unnoticed."

Maj. Natasha Preston

67th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Headquarters Support Company, Nebraska Army National Guard

Preston, a judge advocate, joined the Guard in 2008 and deployed to Djibouti in 2021-22. She appreciates being able to fulfill her desire to serve and still be able to spend time with her family and pursue a civilian career. "It’s nice to feel seen and appreciated. Only about 1% of the population is in the military, and of that 1%, the percentage of African American Soldiers is even smaller. We, as a group, have a long history of serving our country but may not always necessarily get a lot of the recognition, so it’s an honor to be recognized."

Maj. Larry Rankin

Joint Forces Headquarters, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, California Army National Guard

Rankin has been a Guardsman for more than 15 years. His favorite part of serving: "Establishing lasting connections and relationships with so many wonderful peers, colleagues and leaders" and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. "The phrase Black History gets so miscategorized in that it is, in fact, American history but framed through the observational lens of the Black American experience and story, which is so rich and unique in this nation. It is important that we as a nation never forget the challenges, struggles and ever-present obstacles that stood in the way of real equity for Black Americans throughout our nation’s history. We must always be cognizant of the journey and pitfalls of the past and pray that such vigilance might save our nation from repeating those catastrophic mistakes in the future."

Master Sgt. Richard W. Reed

263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, South Carolina Army National Guard

Reed joined the Guard in 2002 and recently deployed to the Southwest border. His favorite part of serving has been the camaraderie and meeting new people with common interests. "Observing Black History Month means an opportunity to pause and remember the men and women who fought for freedom and equal opportunity amongst all. It’s a way to give honor for their sacrifices and dedication to what they worked so hard for."

Capt. Damika Richardson

105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Richardson, a member of the Medical Services Corp., joined the Guard in 1996. "My favorite moment was being commissioned after 18 years of being enlisted and having the opportunity to travel the world and be an example for other women of color." She says Black History Month means "I must keep doing my part to clear a path for the next generation."

Maj. Tanya Sharrieff

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

Sharrieff joined the Guard in 2015. A physician assistant, she served during the COVID response mission. She calls this month's observance truly special. "It sets aside moments to teach and learn many of the neglected stories of our past, which enriches us as a society and inspires me in my work."

Maj. Phyllida T. Shoudel

Headquarters and Support Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Illinois Army National Guard

Shoudel followed her brother into the military in 2008. Highlights of her service include training in Poland in 2015 and deploying to Afghanistan in 2016-17. "No matter who we are or where we come from, we are all one in the military. We share experiences, gain lifelong friends and share a common bond with every Soldier."

Tech. Sgt. Benson Stewart

113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard Logistics Readiness Squadron

Stewart, a supply management specialist, joined the Guard in 2013. Deployments include Operation Spartan Shield in the Middle East. "Being able to observe this event displays the importance of respecting the sacrifice of past members. It has significant value to me due to my historical family’s lineage in military service and the proud history of serving the country."

Tech. Sgt. Derrick Javon Thompson

109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Thompson, a Guardsman since 2000, deployed to Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze. He says wearing the Air Force uniform is a genuine connection to a tradition of service and sacrifice that fills him with pride. "As an Air National Guard recruiter, Black History Month can be an opportunity to highlight the diversity within the military and to acknowledge the significant role that African Americans have played in the armed forces. It's important to approach such observances with sensitivity and respect, recognizing the historical context and significance they hold for our community."

Sgt. Chanel Trammell

642nd Quartermaster Detachment, 74th Troop Command Guard, District of Columbia Army National Guard

Trammell, a culinary specialist, joined the Guard in 2018. She graduated recently from the Basic Leadership Course and thanks the Army for taking her out of her comfort zone. "Black History Month means celebrating our ancestors and our Black culture from service to music, our food, language, hair styles and fashion. All Black contributions from past to present. I’m making a perfect example for my daughter. She’s 3, but she loves when I put on my military uniform because she knows I’m going to work and contributing to something bigger. I’m setting an example and establishing a legacy."

Staff Sgt. Odanyne Tully

Force Support Squadron, 105th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard

Tully joined the Guard in 2018 and says the highlight so far was flying out of the country to repair an aircraft that made an emergency landing due to a fuel leak. Black History Month "is a significant opportunity to show how diverse the Air Force is and that no matter who you are (or) where you’re from, as long as you are willing to serve, you can be a part of this really great team. It also highlights the very essence of why we are the most powerful Air Force in the world. It’s not just about our equipment, but it is most definitely our people."

Capt. Natasha J. Vanreil

105th Medical Group, New York Air National Guard

Vanreil joined the Guard in 1996 for the educational benefits and to support her country. She says this month's observance means "I should continue to strive in excellence for those that I serve and for the next generation."

Master Sgt. Noly G. Walker

113th Wing, 113th Communications Squadron, District of Columbia Air National Guard

Walker served in the Marine Corps, the Navy and Air Force Reserves before joining the Air National Guard in 2016. He deployed to Turkey in 2018 and says mentoring younger Airmen is the highlight of his service. He says Black History Month is "recognizing the magnitude of Black contributions and Black resiliency from slavery through today. I often think how far African Americans would be if it wasn’t for the systemic and structural inequities that continued well after slavery through segregation, disfranchisement, and discriminatory practices and policies intended to set Blacks behind. These are the reasons we’re still behind the curve on a lot of things, but this is a month to educate and open minds. We should also celebrate the contributions made that some may take for granted. It’s bigger than a commemorative month — this should be a year-round discussion because it’s part of American history."

Staff Sgt. Mario White

174th Attack Wing Recruiting, New York Air National Guard

White joined the Guard in 2008. "My favorite part of serving has been giving back to others, having the ability to travel the world, and to make connections with people all over the world." He says Black History Month "shows and capitalizes on people of color being accepted into the natural order of society, and that’s a big deal to me."

Capt. Schashuna Dennise Whyte

27th Finance Battalion, New York Army National Guard

Whyte has served since 2012, including the COVID response and Operation Enduring Freedom in Kuwait in 2014-15. "I decided to stay because serving is much more than the opportunities. I am now a part of a team, a family that is like no other, and I would not trade it." She says Black History Month "reminds me of the strength and vigor of my people. It is a time to highlight the accomplishments not only for me but those who paved the way so that I can stand here proud to be the first Black female HHD commander of the 27th Finance Battalion. This opportunity would not exist if my ancestors did not create that path for us."

Sgt. 1st Class Gregory K. Williams

G Company, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion, Forward Support Company, Florida National Guard

Williams has served since 2008 and participated in Operation Silent Sentry in 2021-22. "Being a part of Soldier development and getting to influence those around me" is his favorite part of serving. Black History Month, Williams says, "shows appreciation and remembrance of our ancestors that laid the foundation for our future."

Master Sgt. Kenyetta M. Williams

182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard

Williams joined the Guard in 2007 "for education benefits and the opportunity to travel the world, but I have gained so much more." She has deployed to Kuwait and Qatar and Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria. "Being recognized for my services, specifically during such a momentous month as Black History Month, is an honor, to say the least. My ethnicity is who I am, what I identify as and what I’m most proud of. I am beyond blessed to do the great work for all Airmen and grateful that the military is not only recognizing Black and brown people during Black History Month but encouraging cultural competency and being more culturally aware as an organization."

Senior Airman Lakiesha Williams

174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard

Williams, a security forces journeyman, joined the Guard in 2020. She says Black History Month is "acknowledging the sacrifices and accomplishments of African Americans, while also bringing an awareness as to how far we’ve come as a culture and a people."

Master Sgt. Patrick Williams

189th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Arkansas Air National Guard

Williams joined the Guard in 1995 to help pay for school and see the world. He has deployed to Qatar and served in the Ponce, Puerto Rico, hurricane response mission. Black History Month "tells of the contributions and successes that African/Black Americans have achieved despite the struggles in the early times and those that we face today. It also teaches present-day children to treat everyone with respect and dignity regardless of race."

Command Chief Master Sgt. Sonja Williams

174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard

Williams has served since 1997 and is a high school Spanish teacher. The highlight of her service was a 2011 deployment to Kyrgyzstan. "This observance is an opportunity to highlight and spotlight the accomplishments of African Americans. A time to recognize the contributions and sacrifices we as a people have made to and for this country. To me, it is also a day of service. It’s not a day off, it’s a day on! A day to give back to your community."

Master Sgt. Takeya Williams-Smith

174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard

Williams-Smith has served for more than 20 years, including a 2010 deployment to Qatar. She says the highlight of her military career is serving with her mother, Chief Master Sgt. Sonja Williams. She considers this month's observance "a way to honor and recognize the perseverance, ingenuity and many accomplishments that African Americans have made to our country. This observance makes me feel a great sense of pride and connection to those who came before me and a sense of purpose for those who will come after me."

Capt. Kellen Woodard

46th Military Police Command, Michigan Army National Guard

Woodard, a military police officer, joined the Guard in 2011 to challenge himself and make his family proud. The highlight of his service was being a part of the COVID response mission. "My country and my fellow citizens appreciate me and recognize things that I have experienced. It allows me to celebrate my heritage and remember the history of this country and how far we have come."

Tech. Sgt. Tray Wynn

174th Attack Wing Recruiting and Retention, New York Air National Guard

Wynn has served since 2015 and deployed to Kuwait in 2019. This observance, he says, is "a time to recognize and celebrate achievements, contributions and the history of Black individuals. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness, promote understanding, and honor the significant impact that Black individuals have made throughout history."

Staff Sgt. Reggie Wynne Jr.

Joint Force Headquarters, Illinois Army National Guard

Wynne has served since 2011, including deployments to Jordan and Kuwait. "Black History Month is dedicated to honor all the Black pioneers over the course of history. To honor those before us that faced hardships to create the opportunities we have today. To remember those that sacrificed to make life as we see it today. To motivate and educate the new young Black pioneers on the ones that came before them. Black History Month is a continuous reminder to be proud of our history and the monumental people that show us we can do it too."

Staff Sgt. Godfrey Zulueta

105th Base Defense Group, 205th Base Defense Squadron, New York Air National Guard

Zulueta joined the Guard in 2018 "to associate myself with something bigger than myself in order to give my life meaning and purpose." He deployed to Qatar in 2021. Black History Month "means we are in a new time and a new age where all walks of life will be treated with dignity and respect and will all have a voice to be heard. It also means being part of a family, despite where you come from or what you look like."