Calhoun County residents with military ties might remember retired Command Sgt. Maj. Joshua Perry from his work with military police at Fort McClellan in the 1990s.
Now a resident of the northern Alabama town of Madison, the 78-year-old veteran will be back in town speak at this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Youth Participation Day, a free program to be held Jan. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center.
The event is part of the city’s Good Choices Program, which provides kids throughout the county with growth and leadership opportunities.
According to Anniston Parks and Recreation Department director Steven Folks, Perry was stationed at Fort McClellan when he retired in 1994, and was an active part of the community during that time. He was admitted to the to the Military Police Regimental Hall of Fame in 1997, and was the first African American to serve in his position, according to a bio Folks provided.
Folks said he served with Perry, and called his former commanding officer “a soldier’s soldier.”
“He’s a good leader to all,” Folks said. “Black, white, whatever. It didn’t matter as long as you were a good soldier.”
Speakers at the King breakfast in previous years have included Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played Rudy on “The Cosby Show,” in 2015, and Good Choices Program graduate BriOnna Williams in 2017. Williams graduated from Anniston High School in 2011 and went to work for Lockheed Martin in Texas.
Event coordinator Frazier Burroughs said that visitors should get to the venue early if they want to beat a crowd of as many as 1,000 patrons of the free meal and program.
“Don’t show up at 9,” Burroughs said. “If you come at 9 a.m. it’ll already be packed.”
Burroughs said that between 800 and 1,000 visitors are drawn to the event each year, with about 200 volunteers serving eggs, sausage, grits, biscuits and fruit for breakfast. Students from schools throughout the county participate in the event, offering music performances and speeches that address each year’s theme. This year the theme is “Passing the Dream Forward Through Service,” Burroughs explained.
“The purpose is to try and encourage young men and women that through service and hard work and dedication, they can achieve whatever they want to and find success,” he said.
The Calhoun County Commission is among the event’s sponsors each year. Commission President Fred Wilson said the gathering is important not just because it brings people together, but because Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles concerning education and nonviolence are important messages for the community.
“Martin Luther King Jr., he was for all people, and that’s a good thing,” Wilson said. “It’s more than just a little breakfast; it’s a coming together.”