Suitland, Md. –
Juneteenth was designated a federal holiday in 2021 and marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in June 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The troops’ arrival came two years and nine months after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Since then, Juneteenth has been recognized as the official end to slavery in the United States and a celebration of Black and African American culture.
During the event, Henry spoke with NMIC employees on his experiences as a Black American serving in the military and how it has impacted his personal and professional life. For Henry, the unique environment of the military allows diversity to flourish and provides an opportunity to break down cultural barriers.
"In some ways, the military provides a unique opportunity,” said Henry. “We [Americans] aren’t close enough together for long enough to see differences evaporate. In the military you are.”
Henry started his military career in 1981 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. A native of Texas, Henry had celebrated Juneteenth growing up and was surprised to learn that the holiday was not widely known or celebrated. Throughout his career, he dedicated himself to being a better leader and role model for his fellow Marines and attributes much of his own success to the opportunities he was presented. For Henry, the military’s forward progress toward achieving a more inclusive fighting force and the strength of its diversity is what elevate the effectiveness of an organization.
“The strength of this country, really, lies in the diversity we have,” said Henry. “The diversity of thought, the diversity of different talents, the diversity of different ideas.”
The establishment of Juneteenth as a federally recognized holiday provides leaders like Henry another opportunity to engage with the workforce and service members while providing mentorship for the next generation of leaders.
"If you want to see a change, you actually have to do something,” said Henry. “If you’re a junior Sailor or a junior civilian, you still have a reason to try to do something. If it’s the right thing to do, you have to take the step.”
Despite any cultural or personal differences, the mission has always been and will be the priority, explained Henry. It is the duty of leadership to use the strengths and talents of all individuals to improve the organization and complete the mission.
"You take the individual, you see what the individual has to offer, and then you bring that potential for that individual — their capabilities to bear on your problem set, the mission — and you make sure to maximize that,” said Henry.
Following Henry’s remarks, Rear Adm. Mike Studeman, Commander, Office of Naval Intelligence, thanked him for his time and for speaking to the workforce about his experiences.
"I thank Lt. Gen. Henry for visiting,” said Studeman. “He’s an inspiration to us all and I cherish his friendship.”
This event was sponsored by the Naval Intelligence Activity Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Accessibility (NIA DEIA) Office and the ONI Black Employees Leading in Inclusion, Excellence, Vision, and Education Employee Readiness Group (BELIEVE ERG). The mission of the BELIEVE ERG is to develop an environment that fosters and promotes the creativity of all employees; professional development and advancement of Black and African Americans; awareness of the impact of Black and African American cultures and contributions; and the identification or response to barriers to the hiring and advancement of Black and African Americans.