Friends, family, military personnel and elected officials flowed into the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore last Saturday for a Maryland National Guard Adjutant General Change of Command ceremony.
According to multiple media reports, including the WBAL TV website, “During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Linda Singh relinquished her command of the Maryland National Guard to Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen. Following the ceremony, Singh officially retired from the National Guard. ...”
Among those attending were folks from Carroll County such as my wife and me, Maryland Special Secretary of Smart Growth Wendi Peters, Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Beyard, US Amy retired; and Emily Willis Dorm, Charlie Dorm, and Jacqueline Dorm, relatives of Singh, who Carroll County claims as a native daughter.
Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Singh on Jan. 21, 2015. Singh is the first African-American woman to lead the Maryland National Guard. According to WBAL, “In her role, she led more than 5,500 soldiers and airmen under her command and more than 1,000 full-time federal and state employees ready to respond in the event of a state or national emergency…
“Gov. Larry Hogan thanked Singh for her 38 years of service and described why she holds a special place in his heart. ‘General Singh was one of the very first appointments that I made as governor, and she's one of those that I'm most proud of,’ Hogan said. The governor also added that Singh helped take the Maryland National Guard to greater heights, calling her leadership visionary.”
WBAL reported in a story earlier in the year and it was mentioned during the ceremonies that, “She was a prominent figure during the Baltimore riots of 2015 when the governor called in the National Guard …”
Singh spent much of her childhood in the Westminster, Frederick, and Carroll County area. Singh mentioned in her presentation last Saturday that she enlisted in the Army while she was homeless, at age 17. She explained her circumstances in an earlier WBAL story,” ‘I had to leave home because I was sexually assaulted,” she said. ”My parents didn't believe me at the time and it ended up in a big altercation between me and my mom, and I left home …”
In recent years, Singh has not been a stranger to Carroll. The Memorial Day weekend events in May 2018 included a rededication ceremony at the historic Ellsworth Cemetery on Leidy Road behind the Crossroads Community Church in Westminster.
According to an article written by Carroll County Times writer Jennifer Turiano, “Currently … maintained by Union Memorial Baptist Church in Westminster,” the cemetery was established December 21, 1876 “when six black Union Army veterans sought a place to bury African-Americans — who were not allowed in the city’s cemeteries at the time.”
Singh was the keynote speaker at the May 2018 rededication ceremony. In her moving presentation Singh remarked that she recognized the names of many members of her ancestral family roots in Carroll County.
On Oct. 11, 2013, Singh was one of two keynote speakers at the 11th annual Carroll County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Branch # 7014 Freedom Fund Banquet in Westminster – along with U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-Dist. 7.
At the banquet Singh observed, “I did not rise to my current assignment by myself. I stood on the shoulders of giants. … The American Armed Forces were still largely segregated when World War II began in 1941. This did not stop African Americans from volunteering to serve their country ….
“While President Truman desegregated the Armed Forces in 1948, the civilian sector, especially in the south stubbornly grasped to segregation,” said Singh. “This did not stop African Americans from pursuing successful careers in the Armed Forces… Many African American women have made and are making successful careers in the American armed forces…
“Despite its historical flaws, the American Armed Forces has been a stellar example for personal achievement based on merit. This is because, advancement, for the most part, is based upon what you do, not who you know….”
Throughout history ordinary people have served in our extraordinary military and accomplished extraordinary things. For this we are eternally indebted and grateful.
In an earlier WBAL story, Singh said, "When I look at the young people, what I want them to see is that your darkest day can be the day that you develop the most strength that you can ever have. And I want them to see that the darkest day doesn’t have to always be dark — that there can be something that you can shoot for. You have some hope of being able to move beyond…” Singh shares her life’s story in a book titled “Moments of Choice — My Path to Leadership.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”