In the end Roosevelt Dickerson saluted — a fist raised in the air with trembling breath for his LINC comrades.
He was leaving his torch in the hands of his fellow “warrior” spirits.
“Each of you willingly venture into areas of the city,” he said to an audience at LINC’s May 13 commission meeting that was honoring the former U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant on his retirement as the coordinator of LINC’s Gladstone Elementary School Caring Communities site.
“Your battle is with fear, hatred, fatherlessness, single-parent households where a mother is the breadwinner, girls that are downtrodden, boys who have a misguided idea of what manhood really is . . .”
By joining LINC in 2011, Dickerson had found a challenging next step for a life of service after three decades serving his country in the Air Force.
“You understand the message,” he said to the gathered LINC staff and supporters in the audience, “because you fight it daily, striking at the very heart of what we call injustice.”
The U.S. military and LINC shared the core of the “warrior spirit,” he said. “For to be a warrior, you dream things that never were, saying, ‘Why not here? Why not now?’”
His admirers, in honoring Dickerson, praised his perfection, energy and love.
LINC Caring Communities Administrator Janet Miles-Bartee said she made Dickerson and his team at Gladstone her model for achieving sparkling license reviews from the state.
Dickerson’s site was the first Miles-Bartee saw reviewed when she was put in charge of licensing for LINC, she said. It was perfect. She noticed how effectively Dickerson had delegated responsibilities to get that done, so she delegated him to take his team to other sites to help them prepare.
“He graciously agreed,” she said, “and every visit (by the state) after Roosevelt had been in that site was perfect.”
LINC Caring Communities Administrator Sean Akridge marveled at Dickerson’s ability to bring out families and children to an always-engaging array of events. “Whether a nutrition class, or fashion design . . . he’s able to pull them in,” Akridge said.
Miles-Bartee thanked Dickerson for his “integrity,” for his “love of the children and families.”
Akridge thanked him for choosing LINC as the latest “chapter in (his) life,” because “that chapter has had quite an impact on many families.”
But Dickerson shined the light back on his colleagues in the struggle.
“You are the individuals of this city that stand on the wall — that stand on the battlefield of life as I stood 20 years ago in the military in different parts of the world.”
Dickerson remembered some of their hard times, when violence and suffering in Kansas City took tolls on some of the site coordinators and the families and staff in their sites.
He described this hard, meaningful work, with a peace and gentleness at passing it on as he felt years ago when he visited the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., while in the Air Force years ago.
On his retirement from the Air Force, he spoke of the sound of the memorial’s fountain and its words that would drive him onward in the years that followed: “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
It’s no wonder that the gifts handed to Dickerson at his LINC retirement recognition included homages to his heroes — Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and all those who offer a hand to raise others.
“Please, please, please carry the torch . . .,” he said. “(Carry it ) to your neighborhoods to insure that that child —that little Roosevelt — will dream big.”