Today, a group of over 400 surviving members of the Montford Point Marines was recognized by Congress after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor for a civilian in the nation.
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The Montford Point Marines, the first African-American soldiers trained for the Marine Corp, began their historic tale in this small section of North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune back in 1942.
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Then-President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a directive giving Blacks access to basic training at Montford Point Camp, a segregated and underwhelming facility compared to other Marine campsites. Roughly 20,000 men received basic training between the years 1942 to 1949.
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Several news outlets captured reactions from the Montford Marines, and they accepted the honor with grace and pride. “We went through hell and brimstone at Montford Point,” said Marine John Phoenix, 83, to the McClatchy Newspapers outlet. “It was no playpen there. So when this come about we were finally able to get some relief. The truth will set you free.”
“I’m going to cherish it. I’m going to put it in a case and hang it on the wall in a prominent place for everyone to see,” said 89-year old Calvin Moore to the Detroit Free Press. Riley Ford, 81, was humbled by the news of receiving the medal, although like the other members, he feared their day of recognition would never come, telling the Free Press, “I never expected that America would quite evolve this way. I never expected America would evolve to this point in my lifetime.”
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All should salute the brave men of Montford Point.