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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • King's legacy celebrated in words, song at Bath observance

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  • As the congregation in the Bath VA Medical Center's Union Chapel joined hands and formed a circle, thankfulness for the past and hope for the future filled the room. With interlocked fingers and closed eyes, the group begins to sing "We Shall Overcome," as if they were one united voice.
    Monday's gathering celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the life and work of the famed civil rights activist.
    It featured hymns by the Friendship Baptist Church Choir of Corning and remarks by Chaplain Gerald Hamblin of the Bath VA and Rev. Nathanial Wright of Friendship Baptist Church.
    Referencing King, Wright noted that dreams are often much bigger and broader than the dreamer himself.
    "One of the amazing things about the life of Dr. King is he realized somehow that he didn't have forever," Wright said. "That perhaps his life would be short, and so he wanted to spend as much time engaged in the work that he possibly could."
    Wright also urged those in attendance to curb their selfishness in memory of King.
    "We must challenge ourselves to become what Dr. King called 'dangerously unselfish,'" Wright said. "That we must be able to think of others well ahead of ourselves and remember the responsibility that we have to our community and our fellow man."
    Monday was the Friendship Baptist Church's 24th year of celebrating King's birthday with the Bath VA, said Chaplin Hamblin, who organized this year's event.
    "I've just had great appreciation for the changes that Martin Luther King has brought to the nation in reference to racial issues, racial profiling and prejudices," Hamblin said. "It's not a black and white issue as people may say, but it's something that reaches across all humanity in respect for one another."
    Hamblin, a Navy veteran who spent 32 years in the service, began celebrating King long before his birthday became a national holiday.
    "When I was on active duty in the Navy back in the early '80s, before Martin Luther King's birthday was announced as a national holiday, there was a recommendation that I would do a service to recognize Dr. King for the tremendous, incredible things he has done," Hamblin said.
    Hamblin also recognized a very strong connection between King's service and that of veterans.
    "These are veterans who are here in the VA and it's their attitude of serving without question that they bring that makes a close connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and military service," he said.
    Wright agrees. Though he had done two other services prior to the one at Union Chapel, Wright said this one in particular meant the most to him.
    "It means a lot to be able to honor Dr. King and his service with individuals who have served our country," Wright said. "Those who understand what service is all about."

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