Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom and Resilience

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lauren Jacoby
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Juneteenth, observed as a federal holiday on June 19th since 2021, is a day of profound historical and cultural significance for the United States.

This holiday commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, This holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, The day Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and told enslaved people of their emancipation, marking the end of a dark chapter in American history and the beginning of a new era of freedom and civil rights. For U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Quenton Holden, 60th Aerial Port Squadron passenger service specialist, Juneteenth is more than a federal holiday. It is a day to remember the hard-won freedoms and opportunities now available to him and others who share his heritage.

“I learned from a young age that many of my ancestors were slaves,” said Holden. “I grew up with a lot of friends that knew a great deal about their families and the histories of their family trees. Mine stops at my great-grandparents since records weren’t as commonly recorded back then.”

As Holden grew older, he developed a strong passion for learning about his past, which included community involvement. He and his family volunteered monthly providing food, job training programs and resume writing workshops to help uplift underprivileged communities. Through his church, he also participated in the restoration of Elmerton Cemetery, the sacred resting place of emancipated slaves near Holden’s hometown of Smithfield, Va.

“Being surrounded by so many kind-hearted people that were there for one goal was an incredibly honorable experience,” said Holden. “I have to give all the credit to my mom. She really pushed me to get involved and learn about my heritage.”

Holden’s family also inspired him to participate in another family tradition; joining the military.

“Both of my parents and my brother are in the U.S. Navy. They inspired me to join and take part in a heritage I can be proud of,” Holden said. “My mom was very supportive in my decision to join the U.S. Air Force, so I was able to experience something different.”

Since arriving to his first duty station at Travis AFB in 2019, Holden continued his love for giving back to the community in his new environment. Though he recently needed to pause his involvement due to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, he expressed his desire to rebuild those community relationships and help make a difference where he can.

“When I first moved to Travis, I went through the First Term Enlisted Course and was able to clean up a church with a Solano County volunteer organization,” said Holden. “I’ve been really caught up in work and school, but I am going to go back and get more involved.”

Through family traditions, festive gatherings and reflective moments, Holden honors the past while looking forward to a more just and equitable future. His personal journey underscores the significance of Juneteenth, not just as a historical event, but as a living, breathing celebration of African American heritage.

“I say, approach everything with open-mindedness because history isn’t always pretty. I’ve always been told if history is too comfortable, there are parts that have been skipped, or you’ve been taught wrong,” said Holden. “Approach the unknown with the ability to learn and the ability to better understand those around you.”

As we celebrate Juneteenth, Team Travis calls its members to honor the sacrifices and achievements of those who came before them, reflect on the progress made and recommit to the work that remains. By doing so, it not only pays tribute to the past, but also paves the way toward a more perfect union for all.