Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

My 65th birthday


Northern Illinois USA Glen Ellyn, IL

45 years ago today, April 4th 1968, Dr. Martin Luther king was assassinated. That day was also my 20th birthday. I had been in Vietnam less than two months when I heard about Dr. King’s death. I had just purchased a shortwave radio from the Base Exchange as a gift for myself. Some of my buddies and I sat on the ground and started to tune the radio to find an American station. When we finally found a station, what we heard brought us all to tears and anger. Dr. King was dead. I’m not sure how long we sat there in the dirt crying. It could have been minutes or hours. I have no other memory of that day except that there was this eerie silence all over the base.

Da Nang air base, at that time, was the busiest airport in the world. But on that day, I don’t remember the sound of even one jet taking off. Even the air was calm. It felt as though we were caught up in a moment of stillness and peace. No one bothered the Black soldiers that day and left us to our day of mourning. The next day I returned the radio to the Base Exchange because it was the bearer of bad news. I also began to hear stories about weapons having been taken from Black soldiers that were on base that day. (hmmm I wonder why???) Hanoi Hannah was on the radio urging Black GIs to stop fighting, that the Vietnamese were not their enemies, that our enemy was the ones that killed our leader and that we should go back home and fight there. There were also stories about army patrols coming under attack and everyone was killed except for Black troops. They were told the same thing that Hanoi Hannah was broadcasting. I do know that was part of the Viet Cong strategy of psychological warfare. But, at the time it made a lot of sense to us Black soldiers.

I loved Dr. King so much much. He was one of the most courageous men I have ever known. From that day 45 years ago, up until now, I could find no joy in celebrating my birthday on a day that this heavenly inspired soul was assassinated so I stopped. Today I'm changing that. Dr. King was a unifying force for peace. He had a dream, which I believe, is being fulfilled today within the Baha'i faith. Baha’u’llah, Gods manifestation for this day, wrote more than a century ago “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” For my birthday, I would like to honor Dr. King by giving my Facebook family and friends, and the world a present. It is a Baha'i prayer for unity. Enjoy! And may peace be with you. “O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.” - Bahá'u'lláh

(Compilations, Baha'i Prayers, p. 203)

This article was originally published on April 4, 2013 on Harold Williams' Facebook page. © Harold Williams, 2013.
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