George J. Johnson, a U.S. veteran that proudly served with the Marine Corps during World War II, has received a Congressional Gold medal for his honorable service.
Johnson fought alongside the Marine Corps as a military policeman during the turbulent war in the 1940s, Stars and Stripes reported. The fearless vet was part of the coveted Montford Point Marine, one of the first marine units comprised of Black men.
Relatives close to Johnson said they never knew about his history with the Marine Corps. In fact, some never knew he was a veteran at all.
“Six years ago was the first time we heard he was a Marine,” Grace King, Johnson’s cousin and caretaker told the Miami Herald, according to the outlet.
Johnson, 101, received his Congressional Gold Medal on Feb. 5 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The history of the Montford Point Marines
Montford Point was a segregated training base located near the Marine Corps’ East Coat Infantry located in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Around 20,000 men were enlisted into the exclusive unit after President Franklin Roosevelt issued an Executive Order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission in June 1941. The recruits trained intensely at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, NC from August 26, 1942, until the camp was decommissioned on September 9, 1949.
Recruits from Montford fought in a number of battles including The Battle of Peleliu and Iwo Jima. Nearly 2,000 Black marines also served in combat during the seizure of Okinawa, according to The National Montford Point Marine Association.
Johnson’s award comes after the historic appointment of Michael Langley, the first Black military Lieutenant to be promoted to the rank of General. In August 2022, Langley was nominated to lead all U.S. military forces in Africa as the chief of the U.S. Africa Command. He is the first Black four-star general to join the military branch in its 246-year history.
After his ceremony at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., Langley said he was “humbled and honored for the opportunity to take on the stewardship of command of AFRICOM” and to receive the historic promotion.
“The milestone and what it means to the Corps is quite essential. Not just because the mark in history, but what it will affect going forward, especially for those younger across society that want to aspire and look at the Marine Corps as an opportunity,” he added.
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