MLK’s legacy lives on – SrA Daniel Wilson reflects

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katelynn Jackson
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As we approach the 38th observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Airmen all over the world honor the life and impact of the visionary civil rights leader. 

While Airmen everywhere feel the weight of his sacrifice and heroism, some more than others connect deeply with message of equality he spent his life edifying. 

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Wilson, 56th Fighter Wing Safety occupational safety apprentice, is one of the many Airmen that carry on the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy of determination, courage and leadership. 

With MLK day arriving on the 15th, Wilson reflects on the impact that Dr. King’s legacy and heroism has made to his and his family’s life. 

Wilson was adopted at birth in a small town outside of Atlanta, Georgia called Decatur in 1998. Today, he reflects on the influence his father, a retired pastor, had on his life. 

“He taught me to value peace and empathy with others,” said Wilson “This is something I carry with me throughout my life.” 

Wilson’s mother equally influenced who he was to become. Born in the 1950’s, she was in the first African American class allowed to go to Decatur High School in Georgia. Something that might not have been possible without Dr. King’s influence on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

“My parents were alive for and very involved in the civil rights movement,” said Wilson. “So, I feel Martin Luther King Jr.’s influence to my core.” 

Since enlisting in the Air Force in 2019, Wilson has traveled to places and gained experience he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t joined. In early 2023, Wilson was granted the opportunity to be included in the presidential detail when Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, visited Luke AFB. Not only did he get the opportunity to meet with her, but was also coined by the VP. 

In addition to experiencing so much, Wilson also proved himself as an extraordinary leader in his career field through his many accomplishments. Wilson plays an essential role in supporting the 56th FW’s mishap prevention program, safeguarding DOD personnel and assets. He led the execution of 93 mishap investigations mitigating mishap rates by 23% and scrutinized 32 squadron safety programs, enabling the completion of 203 inspections resulting in $318,000 in abatement actions. 

Outside of his career field, Wilson leads in innovating the culture of the Air Force. Hand-selected as one of five members to represent his branch during an Air Force Recruiting Service national broadcast event. His involvement played a pivotal role in inspiring the future of the force and embodied the Secretary of the Air Force's Diversity Equity Inclusion & Accessibility strategy towards inclusive promotion efforts fostering Air Force equal opportunity. 

“The Air Force is taking steps forward to promote inclusivity and equity, but that isn’t an overnight change,” said Wilson. “It will take generations of Airmen to be where we want to be, and I believe in being a part of that transformation.”

In order to progress his aspirations of innovation and peacemaking, Wilson is undertaking his education at the University of Arizona for social understanding and human behavior. 

“It’s a passion for me to grow in communicating and empathizing with people,” said Wilson. “I believe this program will help me do just that.” 

While Wilson is now formally pursuing his education, he has had a lifetime of experience of caring and communicating with others. But growing up Wilson explains that he never truly felt like he fit in, and when he enlisted, that didn’t change. 

“Luckily for me, I like to listen and navigate through complex conversations to expand my mindset and understand the many other ways of thinking I was exposed to, after I joined,” said Wilson. “We as a force need to not only embrace and celebrate diversity of perspective as a part of what we are fighting for, but as our ultimate strategic advantage.”

Wilson says that diversity in the way we think is something that is wide-spread in both the country and the Air Force. 

“I understand now what Dr. King did a long time ago,” said Wilson. “It is actually our differences that are our strengths, not our weaknesses.” 

As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday, Airmen, like Wilson continue to live up to the standard he set and ensure his legacy lives on, rising to meet the challenges that remain.