Brigadier General Janeen L. Birckhead addresses the audience during the 2022 Salute to Veterans Gala at the Richard A. Henson Center.

When Brigadier General Janeen L. Birckhead speaks about what it was like attending an HBCU, she fondly recalls its role in shaping her career.

The Snow Hill, MD native, who currently serves as both the Commander of the Maryland Army National Guard and the Deputy Commandant for Reserve Affairs at the U.S. Army War College, said her time attending Hampton University played a pivotal role in her military trajectory.

“My career was shaped by the faculty of Hampton University and by the Army R.O.T.C., and I absolutely treasure the experience,” she said. “And so, when I think about my Hampton experience, I will tell you that it solidified my confidence and my ability to lead.”

Birckhead shared the story of her career and her HBCU experience as the keynote speaker at this year’s “Salute to Veterans” Gala held at the Richard A. Henson Center on the campus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

The annual fundraising event, which was co-sponsored by UMES and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, featured an audience of military veterans and community members as guests and was emceed by Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, who is active in the Army National Guard.

“This is one of the venerable institutions we are lucky enough to have in the state,” he said. “It’s made up of people who commit themselves to service, commit their lives to service, whether it’s to a particular field of study or service to the institution at large, or the state at large, or the community around them.”

UMES Vice President for University Relations David Balcom, SSG James Akinola, Brigadier General Janeen L. Birckhead, UMES President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, SSG Eric Lane pose for a picture at the 2022 Salute to Veterans Gala held during Homecoming Week.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Silver Star Scholarship Fund to support first-year UMES students who are honorably discharged veterans, a child of a veteran, or a child of a service member killed in action.

During her speech, Birckhead discussed her military experiences leading the Maryland Army National Guard during the outbreak of the pandemic and following the aftermath of the storming of the U.S. Capitol as well as the importance of becoming a leader and helping mentor future leaders.

“First and foremost, HBCUs are incubators for leaders make no mistake (of that), she said. “HBCUs and our military believe in merit-based equality and it’s powerful to help create the future.”

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