Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
August 22, 2014

Heartbreaking Illustrations Document The Last Words Of Unarmed Black Men

Last Words
Shirin Barghi

A Mother's White Privilege

Black Mother And Son
Pamela Moore via Getty Images

The Most Important Commentary You'll Read About Ferguson

Gateway
Courtesy Gateway Middle School

Americans Are Divided On Obama's Response To Ferguson

Obama
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Former Editor Sues People Magazine For Racial Discrimination

Robertson
Courtesy of David Gottlieb/Wigdor LLP

Nixon Orders National Guard To 'Begin Systematically Withdrawing' From Ferguson

Jay Nixon
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CONFIRMED: Cop Who Threatened Ferguson Protesters Is Lt. Ray Albers

Albers
YouTube

Dancer Gives Back To His Community One Tap At A Time

Madd Rhythms
M.A.D.D. Rhythms

Alabama Teacher Reportedly Asked Students To Re-Enact Michael Brown Shooting

Classroom
Big Cheese Photo via Getty Images

9-Year-Old Fatally Shot In Chicago Yard

Antonio
WGN

Court Ends Part Of Arkansas Desegregation Lawsuit

Arkansas Desegregation
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cop In Ferguson To Protestors: 'I Will F**king Kill You'

Badcop
YouTube

Eric Holder Arrives In Ferguson

Eric Holder
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Michael Brown Family To March In New York On Behalf Of Eric Garner

Michael Brown Family
ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Cops Shoot, They're Trained To Kill. They Never Shoot To Wound.

Police Deadly Force
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Man Killed In St. Louis Officer-Involved Shooting Identified

Officer Involved Shooting St Louis
Facebook

Michael Brown Reportedly Dreamt About His Death Before Shooting: Family

Michael Brown
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Moral Monday Movement Expands To 12 States For Week Of Protests

Barber
Alicia Funderburk via Getty Images

Michael Brown Scholarship Fund Will Honor Late Teen's Legacy, Help Siblings Attend College

Michael Brown
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even Russia Is Criticizing The Police Crackdown In Ferguson

Ferguson Police
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

'Herculues' Actor Calls Ferguson Protestors 'Animals,' 'Losers'

Kevin Sorbo
Frederick M. Brown via Getty Images

Why Are Celebrities Dumping Ice On Their Heads But Steering Clear Of Ferguson?

Icebucketchallenge
YouTube / Instagram

Should White People Care About Ferguson?

Should White People Care Ferguson
Scott Bateman

Black Women Call Taylor Swift's New Video 'Really Troubling'

Taylor Swift Shake It Off
YouTube

Nick Cannon Confirms He And Wife Mariah Carey Are Living Apart

Nick Cannon Mariah Carey
Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images

Chaka Reveals Her Shocking Near-Death Experience

Chaka Khan
David Redfern via Getty Images

Talib Kweli On Michael Brown Shooting: 'We Don't Need To Calm Down'

Talib Kweli
AOL/Huffington Post Media Group

How To Help Ferguson Get Food, Counseling, Education They Need

Ferguson Missouri Hugging
JOSHUA LOTT via Getty Images

This 1950s Photo Essay On Racism In America Is As Relevant As Ever

Ice

T.I. On Ferguson Turmoil: 'America Has Created A Monster'

Ti
Larry Marano via Getty Images

These Are Some Of The Inspiring Things Ferguson Teachers Are Doing While School Is Postponed

Twitter
Ryan J. Reilly

Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' Video Will Constrict Your Soul

Nicki Minaj
Vevo

Mariah Carey And Nick Cannon Split Rumors Swirl

Mariah Carey Nick Cannon
Christopher Polk via Getty Images

Bill Cosby's Untold Story

Bill Cosby
The Hollywood Reporter

Rihanna Takes Short Shorts To New Heights

Rihanna
Fame Flynet

Notes of a Military Son

Comments (24)

During this week -- Military Families Week -- I am reminded of the valuable lessons I learned from my father about the humanity and importance of those who defend our freedom.

My Dad, Clifford Alexander, is a "first" in many ways, born in 1933, an only son of two civic-minded parents who were deeply immersed in their community, Harlem. His parents were both bright, and while neither had college degrees they knew that education was the road to their son's life success, and he graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School -- an incredible success for anyone, much less an African-American of his generation.

He then made a career of leaping over racial barriers and breaking down doors. He served several presidents, and in 1977 President Carter asked Dad to serve in his Administration, as Secretary of the Army.

Dad was responsible for military operations worldwide, wielding civilian powers that were only surpassed by the President himself. His service as Army Secretary immersed him in a world in which there were clear chains of command and protocol, and fixed notions of rank and power.

In my father's eyes, his powers also carried responsibilities and courtesies, and he made it a point to always try to respect the dignity of everyone he encountered. He also deeply valued the ultimate commitment to country that the men and women who serve in our armed forces -- our nation's greatest patriots.

He was at the top of the chain of command, but he never saw himself as superior. It was quite the opposite; he knew that his service was equal to all who served -- one man among thousands in service to country.

Dad made the quality of life of the soldier his top priority. Every time he visited an Army base, he scheduled an hour at the base gym for a pick-up basketball game with the enlisted men and women. He broke it down: Running the court, in shorts, on the floor, there is no rank.

The lessons came all the time -- daily life, leading by example. I recall one weekend morning when he and I walked out the back door of our townhouse to pick up some groceries. As we walked through the alley, a homeless man approached us, and my father greeted him with a hearty "Good morning, sir."

I had seen soldiers and four-star generals offer Dad the same greeting in the halls of The Pentagon, and at Army bases around the world. After we moved along, unprompted, Dad reminded me of something: "He was somebody's baby one day."

Those words with that context remind me of the common humanity that my parents value so much. Their respect for others, and pride in our own identity as African-Americans, informed their -- and eventually my -- sense of self and commitment to service.

My family was immersed in a generation of change defined by public service and social activism. Our life was defined by my parents' work, and by the values inculcated by our day-to-day existence.

So in Military Families Week, I spend a little extra time thinking about those who commit themselves to country, so that we can live in these remarkable times today. Every day, I am thankful for our armed forces, and I pay particular tribute to the individual men and women serving all around the world.

Dad is 77 years old, and just as committed as ever. In the past few years, he carried on his own mission to speak out against the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that was a blight on our nation. He articulated the fight as one over the basic human dignity of those who serve our nation with pride and distinction.

He won't be still, he won't be silent. I honor the individuals who wear The Uniform, as he taught me.

Comments: (24)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 3

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.