Approximately 400 Montford Point Marines received their bronze replica Congressional Gold Medals at a special ceremony held at Marine Barracks Washington June 28.
The Montford Point Marines were presented the official gold medal, as an organization, during a ceremony held on the United States Capitol grounds a day earlier.
The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by Congress and is the highest civilian award in the nation. The award comes more than seven decades after the Montford Point Marines broke the militarie's last color barrier.
“After taking a trip with SgtMaj. Kent, who was the 16th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, to a Montford Point Marine reunion at Camp Pendleton’s base theatre,” said Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. “I walked out that day, not knowing the history of Montford Point Marines. I looked at SgtMaj. Kent and said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’ We are not done today; there are a host of things happening in the Marine Corps to anchor what (Montford Point Marines) have done for our Corps.”
In 1942, President Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African-Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. But the African-Americans who were recruited at that time would not train alongside their white counterparts. Instead a separate camp was established at Montford Point in North Carolina. The nearly 20,000 African-American Marines who trained there from its opening in 1942 to its closure in 1949 were not welcomed by the Corps. The African-American Marines of that era were met with open prejudice, segregation and mistreatment.
Today’s ceremony was another step by the Corps to help recognize the numerous contributions made by the Montford Point Marines and ensure their legacy is not forgotten.
“There are not words in my vocabulary or anyone else, to tell you the joys I feel with this medal,” said Stanley Porter, 1942 Montford Point graduate. “This day is marvelous, just marvelous.”