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Five generations keep proud tradition alive

MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. -- His life was spent fighting for freedom; his own freedom and the freedom of a country not yet born.

Not only did he give his life in prelude to revolution from a tyrannical king, he left a legacy that continues to serve this country's continuous fight to preserve freedom at home and abroad. And one of his descendents supports America's fight to preserve freedom right here.

On March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks was the first American martyr to during the Boston Massacre, a pre-Revolutionary War event.

Born the son of a native African and a Native American of the Natick tribe in 1723, Crispus ran away from his slave owner and became a sailor and whaler in Massachusetts in 1750.

Shortly after reaching freedom, he learned to read and write and to understand the basic principles of different types of government. Crispus often attended meetings with other patriots to discuss taxes levied by Britain, and he wrote a letter of protest to the Tory governor of Massachusetts.

In the spring of 1770, tensions between the American colonists and the British were already running high. Late in the afternoon on March 5 a crowd of jeering Bostonians slinging snowballs gathered around a small group of British soldiers guarding the Boston Customs House. The soldiers became enraged after one of them was hit, and the group fired into the crowd, even though they were under orders not to fire.

Crispus was the first to die in this skirmish that later became known as the Boston Massacre.

Soon, the "Massacre" galvanized and helped unite the colonies against Britain. What started as a minor fight, became a turning point in the American Revolution. The Boston Massacre helped spark the colonists' desire for American independence, while Crispus and the dead rioters became martyrs for liberty.

Crispus left behind a son, Clifton, who would continue the fight for freedom that his father started.

Today Crispus Attucks is remembered for his sacrifice for American freedom, but what the average person may not know is his descendents have kept his legacy of sacrifice and service alive.

From the American Revolution to today's war on terror, every male Attucks descendent has served in the military and fought in almost every war to preserve American freedom.

Master Sgt. Mark Attucks, 305th Comptroller Squadron, NCO in charge of the Financial Analysis Flight, is the fifth generation of Attucks to serve this nation. He said that his father passed on his heritage and instilled service in him as a young boy growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C.

According to Jesse Attucks Jr., Mark's father, every Attucks was planted with this seed of service.

"Growing up, I was told of Crispus' bravery," said Jesse, a former Marine drill sergeant. "Our parents and grandparents always instilled service in us, and I instilled it in my sons.

"Crispus Attucks stood for freedom and fought for it long before this was a country -- and we follow the same tradition."

Jesse joined the Marines in 1967; three months later his older brother Richard Attucks joined. Six months, almost to the day that Jesse joined the Marines, little brother Reginald joined. At one point, Jessie and Reginald were serving in Vietnam simultaneously.

Most of the Attucks males have served in the Marines, but when Mark broke tradition and came into the Air Force, Jesse was nonetheless proud.

"I was proud!" Jesse Jr. said. "It mattered not to me that he didn't follow the Marines tradition -- just that he served."

Jesse said it was important for his boys to know their legacy and keep it.

"We were told that [Crispus] died fighting for freedom; that he was a warrior," Sergeant Attucks said. This has instilled military service in my bloodline; in every generation of Attucks, we've had someone in the military. All of his descendents have served."

Senior Airmen Reginald Attucks, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainer at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., and Mark's cousin, said he is proud to have such an interesting background.

"When I was in the 6th grade my grandfather, Jesse Attucks Sr., passed away and my father, Jesse Jr., received the things that [his father] kept over the years," Mark said. An old Bible, a ceramic statue that had been presented to Sergeant Attucks' great, great grandfather, Preston Attucks, and other family artifacts that had been passed from generation to generation went to Jesse Jr.

Although every descendent of the Attucks family knew about Crispus through family stories and precious artifacts, other people didn't come to know him until the airing of the motion picture epic "Roots."

"After 'Roots,' people began to recognize the name and know who [Crispus] was," Mark said. "People also began to recognize us, too."

"When people like (retired) Gen. Colin Powell see my name, they asked if I'm related to Crispus," Sergeant Attucks said.

In his former security forces career, Mark provided presidential support. He said he had opportunities to talk to many senior leaders about his heritage.

"It was great share my heritage with men like [Colin Powell]," he added. "I'm very proud of where I came from. I'm proud of all my ancestors. We turned all our hardships (slavery and death) around to be 'strong warriors,' as my father would say."


SIDEBAR: Attucks' service to America

--Crispus Attucks (Mark's great, great, great, great, great-grandfather) Pre-American Revolution, Boston Massacre

--Orange Attucks (Mark's great, great, great, great-grandfather): Civil War

--Plato Attucks (Mark's great uncle): World War I

--David Attucks (Mark's great uncle): World War II

--Clifton Attucks (Mark's great-uncle): Korean War

--Jesse Attucks Jr., Richard and Reginald Attucks (Mark's father and uncles): Vietnam War

--Mark Attucks, 305th Air Mobility Wing Comptroller Squadron, McGuire AFB, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, War on Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom

--Reginald Attucks, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., War on Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom