News: Barstow resident presented the Congressional Gold Medal
BARSTOW, Calif. — Story has it that he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on dare from his brother-in-law, who thought he couldn’t do it . Now, 66 years later he is being recognized for taking up that challenge by receiving the highest civilian honor the government bestows.
During a small ceremony, held at the Sizzler in Barstow, Saturday, July 7, James Arthur Brewer was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for service as a Montford Point Marine. As a Montford Point Marine, Brewer, who enlisted in 1946, became one of the Corps’ first 20,000 African American recruits. Making the presentation was Colonel Michael L. Scalise, commanding officer of Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow.
“This is my first official act as the new commanding officer of the base, because I literally took over about three days ago, and it is an honor for me to make this presentation to Master Gunnery Sergeant Brewer,” he said. “It is also a pleasure to be part of history, knowing that you will be hearing more about the Montford Point Marines as time goes by.”
Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale, sergeant major of Marine Corps Installations West/Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, a third generation Marine, also said a few words honoring one of the Marines who paved the way for his success, saying “it is an honor for me to be here to pay homage to a Montford Point Marine. As an African American I am thankful and very appreciative that you and your fellow Montford Pointers paved the way for all African Americans serving the Corps today.”
With that, base Sgt. Maj. Richard Charron read the congressional resolution which granted the Montford Point Marines the medal. The presentation also rehashed some of the most famous black Marines who persevered and served with honor. Some of those names included Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, Edgar Huff to name a few.
While information and those names where being read, Brewer listened intently occasionally nodding as the memory of those names came back as well as the training he endured. Although his health is failing and eyesight not as good as it once was, at age 84 Brewer‘s memories of Montford Point and his career in the Marine Corps are quite vivid.
In 1942, President Roosevelt established a presidential directive giving African-Americans an opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. These African Americans, from all states, were not sent to the traditional boot camps of Parris Island, S.C. and San Diego, Calif. Instead, African American Marines were segregated-experiencing basic training at Montford Point - a facility at Camp Lejeune, N.. Approximately 20,000 African American Marines received basic training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949.
Brewer enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 18, in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., and trained at Montford Point. He said the training was harsh but that was all a part of becoming a Marine. When asked about the racial slurs and tension from his white counter-parts, the soft-spoken Brewer said, “I never thought much about, I just did what I had to do as a Marine.”
For the next 26 years he served the Marine Corps getting assignments at various Marine bases throughout the U.S. and abroad. He work in supply during his entire career and did a stint in Vietnam, serving with Force Logistics Command in Denang from July 1970 to April 1971, but he never saw combat.
He was retired honorably from active duty in 1972; his last duty assignment being Material Company, Headquarters Battalion, what was then known as Marine Corps Supply Center, Barstow, Calif. Brewer went to work at the Marine base and work for another 20 years retiring in 1994.
Before and even after the ceremony Brewer’s family and friends were excited about the award presentation. His four sons: Jonathan, Carlos, James Jr., and Cornielus, all said they were proud of their father’s accomplishments.
“My father is a great man and I am so excited that he received this award,” James said. “The only person missing is our mom who would’ve cherished this moment forever.”
Brewer’s wife of more than 50 years, Pearl, died September 2011 of cancer.
When the ceremony was over, Brewer said he was humbled yet honored to receive the medal.
“It was totally unexpected to receive such a high honor, but I am grateful that I was able to serve the Corps for so many years,” he said.
“I do want to thank all the people who took the time out of their busy Saturday to see the presentation of this award.”
Date Posted:07.12.2012 14:05
Location:BARSTOW, CA, US
Hometown:BARSTOW, CA, US
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