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Celebrate the power of words in remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Capt. Paul Hayes Jr., Equal Opportunity Director, 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., discusses the power of words. As the wing EO leader, he works to ensure that its Airmen are treated equally and unhampered by artificial barriers, prejudices or preferences. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Capt. Cathleen Snow)

Capt. Paul Hayes Jr., Equal Opportunity Director, 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., discusses the power of words. As the wing EO leader, he works to ensure that its Airmen are treated equally and unhampered by artificial barriers, prejudices or preferences. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Capt. Cathleen Snow)

2010 Martin Luther King Day Poster

2010 Martin Luther King Day Poster

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As we prepare to celebrate the January federal holiday that recognizes the accomplishments of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 16, I would like to take a moment to reflect upon fulfilling the dream that he so eloquently spoke about for 17 minutes one hot summer afternoon August 28, 1963.

As the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, his dream was, "a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character." While he clearly states it, finding our way there is a little more challenging. I would like to take a minute to observe the way we treat one another through our use of words. Over four million Google hits will provide one with links and locations for Proverb 18:21 - The power of life and death is in the tongue. While its from the Bible, regardless of what your spiritual affiliation, if any, it is important to understand that many people realize the power of words and the effect their use has on us.

One of the biggest reasons Dr. King's dream is still a dream and not a reality, despite the huge strides that have been taken to increase diversity and understand it in this country, is because there are some of us who refuse to let certain words disappear from their mouths, their lives and their language.

We all know those certain words that trigger hate and violence. According to U.S. common law, assault is defined by any action that is committed by a person to make another person fear that they are in threat of serious bodily injury or offensive and/or aggressive contact. The Uniform Code of Military Justice condemns assault with both Articles 128 and 134. Besides being unlawful, using words designed to incite fear is neither acceptable, nor ethical. Words that were intended to isolate, negatively separate and segregate, and racially or sexually humiliate anyone for any reason, are neither condoned nor tolerated by the Air Force, the DoD or our nation's laws.

There is no tolerance for anyone who uses derogatory remarks to unlawfully discriminate. While the intent of someone using racial slurs and sexually-based insults is considered, the primary concern in these matters is how you make the people who hear them feel. There are an incredibly few amount of circumstances where the sex, age, race, context, gender or affiliation of individuals who use these words can ever be used as a defense. There is no place in our Air Force for words used to objectify a person based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex or assumed mental abilities. Period.

I would like to lead the charge in making the Air Force Reserve speak life into fulfilling Dr. King's dream. By speaking words we use to identify each other that clarify not complicate, that empathize not assassinate, and that identify not isolate, I guarantee positive outcomes. Let's speak about fellow reservists in ways that compliment the content of their character and contribute to a better Air Force human-relations climate.

The 920th Rescue Wing is an Air Force Reserve combat-search-and-rescue wing tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. For more information on the 920th RQW, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.