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Former Army general speaks at Letterkenny for Black History Month

February 13, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert C. Gaskill Sr. speaks Wednesday at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa., in observance of Black History Month.
Roxann Miller/Reporter

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Letterkenny Army Depot’s first African-American commander spoke during the Chambersburg base’s annual Black History Month observance.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert C. Gaskill Sr. was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s event held in the great room at depot headquarters.

Gaskill served as depot commander from 1974 to 1975 and was the first African-American to assume command of the base. Current commander Col. Victor S. Hagan is the second African-American to hold the position.
 
Gaskill entered the Army as a second lieutenant in 1952. Four years before his commissioning, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 to integrate the military service.
 
The military’s transition to an integrated force was a difficult time for many service members, Gaskill said.

“I remember some facilities and activities being integrated, but the atmosphere was not always welcoming,” Gaskill said. “Nevertheless, history clearly shows that the military services were pathfinders for racial desegregation in American society.”

Gaskill retired from the Army in 1981 after nearly 29 years that included service in Korea, Vietnam and Europe as well as assignments as deputy commandant at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., and deputy director at the Defense Logistics Agency in Alexandria, Va.

Calling himself a proud member of the Letterkenny family, Gaskill said Letterkenny provides a valuable resource.

“I’d like people to remember what a great asset this is (Letterkenny) not only to the community, but to the nation and other nations as well,” Gaskill said, “What we do here supports our international security in defending democracy around the world. We are a vital component to freedom.”

Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream is still alive, he said.

“But we still have a long way to go since that summer of 1963,” Gaskill said.

He urged the crowd to continue moving the dream forward.

“Bloom where you are planted,” he said.

Richard Wolfe has been employed at Letterkenny since Gaskill was commander.

“I think it’s wonderful that he came back,” Wolfe said.

When Gaskill became the first African-American depot commander, Wolfe said it was a bit of a culture shock for some of the employees.

“But everyone treated him with open arms,” Wolfe said.

Since then, things have changed, he said.

His coming on base as commander was groundbreaking, Wolfe said.

“It’s a much more accepting environment today,” he said. “I think we look at people as human beings and don’t notice color.”

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