First African American Marines honored at Montford Point

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:16 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Family members of deceased African-American Marines who were part of the Montford Point Marine Corps received Congressional medals and certificates of recognition from Marine Corps Commandant David Berger.

In his keynote speech, Berger referenced a number of the heroic efforts of the Montford Point Marines saying, “They’re not just black Marine history, they are Marine Corps history. They are American history.”

The United States Congress passed Senate Resolution 587 which designates August 26th, as Montford Point Marine Day. The ceremony was held the Montford Point Marine Memorial at Lejeune Memorial Gardens near Camp Lejeune.

Vancurtis Shell, son of the deceased Montford Point Marine Othelma Shell, felt a great sense of pride when accepting the medal on his fathers behalf saying, “Well if he was alive today he would just be overwhelmed with joy. My dad was as American as apple pie. You have to realize where we came from to where you can go. That’s what the Marines do. That’s what the history of Marines do.”

Over 20,000 African-Americans were trained at the Montford Point camp between 1942 and 1949. The Montford Marine Camp was a segregated camp from Paris Island where white soldiers went through their training. Former Montford Marines recounted their pledge to each other to “not only complete the mission, but excel” in hopes of providing more opportunities for African-Americans to serve in the military.

The Montford Point Marine Memorial includes features to honor those who trained at the camp. The ceremony also included several speakers and a drill performance by the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team.

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