February 14, 2002, 11:25 EST
Guard celebrates African American legacy
As people gathered at the Fort Pickett Conference Center they experienced the music of Elder Farrar and Company of Blackstone. The music told the story of the celebration and touched the people there. Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, the adjutant general of the Virginia National Guard, stated the case of the Virginia National Guard very clearly when he said the Virginia National Guard cannot do its mission without everybody. The diversity of the Virginia Guard is what makes it the strong organization that it is. He went on to say that he is committed to the concept that every member of the Virginia National Guard be given the opportunity to rise to his or her own potential.
The keynote speaker was Chief Master Sergeant Robert Barnette, Command Chief Master Sergeant for the Virginia Air National Guard. As the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Barnette is the senior enlisted airman in the Virginia National Guard. Barnette emphasized the many contributions African Americans have made to the defense of the United States. He provided many examples such as the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were assigned to the 322d Fighter Group, which flew combat along with the 99th Squadron from, bases in Italy during World War II. These airmen had the distinction of never loosing a bomber that their unit was assigned to escort during a bombing mission. The accomplishment of these airmen is indicative of the contributions that so many African Americans have made and continue to make to the cause of our freedom.