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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Black History Month Ceremony honors an era of change

By Sgt. Christopher Duncan | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | February 27, 2015

The National Naval Officers Association and the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton held a Black History Month Ceremony at the Pacific Views Event Center, Feb. 25.

The event was held to honor the heritage of African American service members in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“I have had the honor of meeting several prominent African American figures in my life and have been blessed enough to witness and be a part of several significant events, so I thought I’d share some of those experiences,” said Retired Navy Capt. Ollis Jon Mozon, a guest speaker for the event.

Mozon recalled much of his experience as a chaplain during a time when many accomplishments were made that helped to diminish and abolish racial divides.

“I was born in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in the midst of the civil rights movement in 1953,” said Mozon. “My father was a Korean War veteran in the Army and, like many other African Americans at the time, served and fought for freedom over there, while hoping to find it over here.”

Mozon’s mother was a teacher and his father used his G.I. Bill to graduate from college and also pursued a career as a teacher.

“He was hoping to be able to teach history that included us [African Americans],” said Mozon. “My father used to tell me that I couldn’t grow up in D.C. and not know history.”

According to Mozon, while living in D.C. he was not only able to learned about American history; he was also able to be a part of it.

“I was 10-years-old in 1963 when my mother and aunt took me down to witness the great March on Washington for freedom jobs,” said Mozon.

Mozon also spoke about how most people know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, but he vividly remembers others sacrificed to make the event successful.

“I remember a woman who was a part of that counsel of six; she did something that really made that day happen,” said Mozon. “As the officials and president of the National Council of Negro Women were told that they would only have four minutes to speak, she offered to give her time to speak to Dr. King and requested that he be able to speak last because she thoroughly believed in what he had to say. Now we have that magnificent ‘I have a dream’ speech that has become such a valued part of American history.”

Mozon recollected how he felt on July 2, 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was signed, the Watts Riots in Los Angeles and the assassination of Dr. King.

“I remember being inspired after hearing about the first African American naval officers early in my naval career and I had an opportunity to see one of them, Jesse Arbor, at a speaking engagement,” said Mozon. “They were called the ‘golden thirteen’ and were commissioned in 1944. I also had the honor of meeting Sgt. Major Edgar Huff, the first African American noncommissioned officer in the Marine Corps, at a Black History Month event at Camp Lejeune.”

Mozon said that throughout his 30 years of military service, one of the most memorable moments was when President Barak Obama was elected to be Commander in Chief.

“I was serving in Iraq with the 1st Marine Logistics Group when it happened,” said Mozon. “I remember flying a flag that day and sending it back to my church in D.C. with a letter telling them that it was flown on that inaugural day.”

As the ceremony closed, Mozon had a message he said he hoped everyone would hold dear to their hearts.

“History happens as you continue to live, and I will never forget all of the history I’ve been able to see and be a part of this great nations rich heritage and progress,” said Mozon. “As we celebrate 500 years of progress in this beautiful country and its military, I’d like people to know that it’s only the beginning.”