News: Roosevelt, N.Y., Marine receives Congressional Gold Medal
Story by Sgt. Kristin Moreno
ROOSEVELT, N.Y. -- Robert L. Harding, an original Montford Point Marine, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at the Brig. Gen. George A. Jones Triangle on May 27.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. In November 2011, the president signed into law a bill to award the medal to the Montford Point Marines for their distinguished service.
From 1942 to 1949, approximately 20,000 African American men trained at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, N.C., for the opportunity to defend our country and be called Marine. During this time, segregation was culturally accepted and still prevalent in the military. Because of their efforts and accomplishments in battle, the Marine Corps underwent significant changes leading toward greater equality and opportunity.
The Montford Point Association, veterans with the American Legion and approximately 150 local community members came out to the ceremony, including Harding’s granddaughter, Army Pfc. Brittney McKenzie, who is currently stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, 201st Brigade Support Battalion, Alpha Company.
“It is amazing to be able to share this opportunity with my grandfather,” said McKenzie, who is currently training for an upcoming deployment.
During Harding’s ceremony, a new monument was unveiled depicting the names of 29 local community veterans. The unveiling was preceded by a roll call for the veterans honored lead by Town of Hempstead councilwoman Dorothy L. Goosby and a short speech by Charles Fuschillo Jr., New York State Senator for the 8th District, who said it is truly an honor to unveil the monument. It was proceeded by a twenty-one gun salute and the playing of taps.
McKenzie spoke on behalf of her grandfather and said he accepts the award on behalf of the platoon he served with.
The diversity of today’s Marine Corps is in large part because of the actions and perseverance of the Montford Point Marines. In a message to all Marines, Gen. James. F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “Of nearly 20,000 African American Marines who went through Montford Point, approximately 200 still survive. The Congressional Gold Medal will honor all Montford Point Marines from a grateful nation and Marine Corps.”