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