News: Montfort Point Marines go back in time
Story by Lance Cpl. Antwaun Jefferson
TRIANGLE, VA. - August 27 National Museum of the Marine Corps hosted the Montford Point Marine Association to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the first African American Marines arriving at Montford Point, located in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
The Montford Point Marine Association is a charitable nonprofit veteran organization who’s creed is to promote and preserve the strong bonds of friendship born from shared adversities and to devote themselves to the furtherance of these accomplishments to ensure more peaceful times. This includes personnels in all branches of the military, no matter race.
Throughout the years, the Association has been busy with activities that create camaraderie, goodwill, and esprit de corps, both locally and nationally. Being here at the museum was one way of doing that.
Veterans and active members of all branches of the U. S. Armed forces were present. A majority were the first African Americans who actually entered the United States Marine Corps from 1942 to 1949 at Montford Point Camp, New River and North Carolina.
As everyone from the association came in, they gathered in front of the podium awaiting the opening introduction in the lobby. Many of those attending have never been to the museum before, gazing at the pictures, quotes, and models. From the looks of some of their faces, some laughing some eyes watering with tears of joy, they felt right at home.
As the saying goes, once a Marine always a Marine.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Bob Reid, one of the Montford Point Marines. “I bet you that if you and I were to pass away right now, this would be how our heaven would look. It just seems right.”
As the day progressed, those attending made their way to the Montford Point Marines Exhibit. The exhibit shows their rich history in the Corps. From the Corps agreement in February 1943 to accept African Americans recruits, to the weapons they used, and the adversities they had to go through.
Some even had the opportunity to see some familiar faces.
“You can’t tell from the pictures,” said James “JB” Wilson, a Montford Point Marine who joined in 1946. Talking about Sgt. Maj. Gilbert "Hashmark" Johnson, one of the first African Americans to enlist and serve as a Drill Instructor in the United States Marine Corps.
“When I was a recruit, he was one of the meanest drill instructors you would have ever met in your life. There were many times that I wanted to quit, but when I graduated and he actually asked me if I still wanted to quit, I stood proudly and said no, as I shook his hand. At that point I understood why he said and did what he did for us there,” Wilson said.
Montford Point Marines Believed that drill instructors of our time are being passed down the basic methods of the ones before them.
“I was never the type to take anything from anyone before I joined,” Wilson said laughing.” I had a mouth on me, but when the DIs all jump on you at one time and start screaming, it’s so overwhelming, my best bet was to just speak when spoken to.”
The Marine Corps is known for being comprised of “The few, the proud,” Because of high standards and demands. For an African Americans joining and going through Montford Point, it was an even harder challenge.
“Segregation was already hard to take before the Marines,” said John Brown, a Marine WWII Veteran. “I think it was even harder as a Marine. Marine already got equipment passed down to use, and a black Marine we received stuff that the white Marines had already used. The beautiful part is though, that it made all of us stronger in our body and hearts. I wouldn’t change that if I could.”
This past July 30th, the Montford Point Marine Association had its 46th Annual National Convention and Banquet in Atlanta, Georgia. The key note speaker was none other than the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos. The Commandant mentions that the Marine Corps is working aggressively with legislators on Capitol Hill to award the Congressional Medal of Honor this year to the Montford point Marines.
The Marines were not shy at all with their opinions about the potential honor.
“Marines earn everything we get,” said Joseph Davis, a retired Korean War Marine Veteran. “What we went through was beyond tough. Even though it’s been 60 some odd years, I say better late than never.”
“I have many ribbons and medals, said Carrol Braxton, a retired Korean War Marine Veteran. “But If we were to get the Congressional Medal of Honor, beside the birth of my children, that would be the best day of my life.”
The museum showed the Montford Point Marine’s story will never be forgotten. In the words of the Commandant, “They will forever be anchored in the rich history of our Corps. Thank you and Simper Fidelis.”