A retired Command Sergeant Major, who was in charge of Fort Carson with 24,000 soldiers underneath him.
Command Sergeant Major Terrance McWilliams
Veteran | 31 years in the U.S. Army
As a black man who served in the military, what is your perspective of patriotism?
I would say my perspective of patriotism is doing what’s right. What I mean by that it is not blaming the system for your shortcomings. Being patriotic demonstrates that you are a true professional and highly capable of doing anything you put your mind to. For the most part, many people always ask, “Why do you want to serve a country that doesn’t serve you?” That’s been the nature of the black family, especially in the South, not to serve the government because the government doesn’t care about you. I didn’t pay much attention to that; I was more focused on finding myself and trying to break down the stereotype that a black man isn’t worthy. When I went to the Army, it was during a dark period right after the Vietnam War and racism was rampant in the military. I still remember when I was in Germany in the early 1980s and there were cross burnings in the front of the barracks, guys running through with white sheets on like they were the KKK. It was the polarization, where all different races stuck together and didn’t associate with the whites. But we got through all of that.
How did you work through experiencing racism to achieve a high, respected rank?
It was a long process, but the key thing I think about how that happened was I didn’t look at individuals by the color of their skin. I saw us all as being military brothers and sisters.