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At Penn Hills forum, veterans say military is good model for achieving racial equality

Dillon Carr
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 12:39 a.m.
Veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of black veterans Saturday, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident and Marine veteran Leonard Hammonds II, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. World War II veteran Henry Parham is shown talking with Hammonds before the program. Parham served in the Army from 1943 to 1945.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of black veterans Saturday, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident and Marine veteran Leonard Hammonds II, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. World War II veteran Henry Parham is shown talking with Hammonds before the program. Parham served in the Army from 1943 to 1945.
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of black veterans Saturday, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. World War II Navy veteran Charles Sterling Wiggins, 100, attends the program with niece Carol Wiggins Koshal.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of black veterans Saturday, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. World War II Navy veteran Charles Sterling Wiggins, 100, attends the program with niece Carol Wiggins Koshal.
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of African-American veterans Saturday night, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. Members of American Legion Post 527 attend the first of what organizers hope to become a regular series.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of African-American veterans Saturday night, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. Members of American Legion Post 527 attend the first of what organizers hope to become a regular series.
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of African-American veterans Saturday night, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. Panelist Mike Flournoy, an Army Vietnam veteran, answers questions about the experiences that black veterans face in today's military.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
Local veterans from all branches of the military participated in a panel discussion focusing on the sacrifices and experiences of African-American veterans Saturday night, Nov. 4. The program, moderated by Penn Hills resident Leonard Hammonds II, a Marine Corps veteran, was hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initative. Panelist Mike Flournoy, an Army Vietnam veteran, answers questions about the experiences that black veterans face in today's military.

Veterans from all branches of the military participated in a discussion about inequality in the United States, and how the military can be a model to achieve racial equality, during a Saturday program in Penn Hills hosted by the Veterans Breakfast Club and the Hammonds Initiative, a youth-mentoring nonprofit.

“We need to create a model that finds commonalities and build on that. Then we can see racial equality happen in Penn Hills, then across the state, then the country,” said Marine veteran Leonard Hammonds II, founder of the initiative and moderator of the discussion, held at the Comfort Inn on Rodi Road.

Hammonds hopes partnerships with organizations like the Veterans Breakfast Club can help start the process for achieving racial equality in the country. The club meets monthly at several locations throughout Western Pennsylvania to create a forum for veterans to tell their stories and make sure that this living history is never forgotten, according to its website.

At the Penn Hills event, the stories were about being black in the military.

“When you're in the military, you get over your prejudices quickly,” said Nick Grimes, post-9/11 veteran program director of the club.

Grimes served eight years in the Army, including two tours in Afghanistan.

Craig Williams, a black veteran and Penn Hills native who recently moved to Pittsburgh, said his 20 years in the military showed him that racial equality is possible.

“I had the same opportunities to advance in the military as anyone else,” Williams said.

Williams served in the Navy during the Iraq War, ending his career with the rank of petty officer first class.

“We have to look at everyone as American instead of finding the differences,” he said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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