Montford Point Marines dedicate plaque in Arlington Cemetery Sgt. Kurt Sutton
MONTFORD POINT MARINES The First Black Marines1942-1949
"The footprints of the Montford Point Marines were left on the beaches of Roi-Namur, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The tides and winds have, long ago, washed them out into the seas of history, but, "The Chosen Few" in field shoes and canvas leggings, also left their marks in the firm concrete of Marine Corps history. And as new generations of Marines learn to march in those footprints, their cadence assumes the proud stride of those Men from Montford Point." //Gen. Leonard F. Chapman.
Dedicated November 15, 1996 by the Montford Point Marine Association
Members of the Montford Point Marine Association dedicated a bronze plaque and "living memorial" tree in Arlington National Cemetery Nov. 15 to commemorate the accomplishments and sacrifices of the first generation of African-American Marines.
Montford Point, now Camp Johnson, N.C., located aboard Camp Lejeune, was a place in 1942 where black recruits received their basic training, segregated from their white counterparts who trained at Parris Island, S.C. or San Diego, Calif.
When Executive Order 8802 was issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on June 25, 1941, it established the fair employment practice that was the beginning of the end of racial segregation for the U.S. Armed Forces. This order would require years to take full affect, but would at least allow blacks the opportunity to serve their country.
And serve they did.
From 1942-1949, nearly 20,000 Marines graduated from Montford Point. Many of those Marines went on to distant battles on Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Peleliu during WW II. Some of those Marines went on to continue their distinguished service in Korea and Vietnam.
Brigadier General Clifford L. Stanley, Director, Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony which drew nearly 300 former and active duty Marines, family members, and civilian dignitaries. "We stand here on hallowed ground, where truly there is no more discrimination," said Stanley.
The week prior to the dedication, Montford Point Marines and members of the local chapter of the Young Marines helped celebrate the 221st Marine Corps birthday in a commemorative church service at the Fort Myer chapel.
"We try to be active in the community and these events are away that we can do that. The Young Marines here are the only Young Marines who bear the Montford Point name, so we try to support them in whatever way we can," said Bennie E. Walton,Montford Point Marine Association member and national chapter historian. "We have about 60 members in our Montford Point chapter and we help out with 60 or so Young Marines in the metropolitan area," he said.
Since the 1960's, Montford Point Marines have organized chapters throughout the country to maintain camaraderie and perform community actions such as supporting the Young Marines program, feeding the hungry, and taking care of the widows of former Marines
The Montford Point plaque and tree dedication ceremony took six months to organize. The money for the plaque and tree was contributed by Montford Point Marine Association chapters from around the country.
"I'm very happy that I'm still around to see this plaque dedicated. It was a long time in coming and took a lot of effort getting it through. I'm very proud that our time has finally come," said Walton.
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