QUANTICO, Va. - “I am the black man who wished to serve our country during the dark days of World War II; in those days only the most capable and fit men were chosen,” roared historical re-enactor Gunny Sgt. Madyun Shahid, Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
Shahid performed a first-person portrayal of a Montford Point Marine, adorned in a WWII utility uniform, at The Clubs of Quantico during the Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 32 formal gala Sept. 12.
From 1942 to 1949, more than 20,000 African-American recruits trained at Camp Montford, a segregated camp in Jacksonville, North Carolina, now know as Camp Johnson. Those Marines received Congressional Gold Medals for promoting peace and stability during World War II.
Retired Staff Sgt. Johnny B. Cody attends the Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 32 formal gala with his grandsons Petty Officer 3rd Class Baylor Cody and Petty Officer 1st Class Jordan Point at The Clubs of Quantico, Va., Sept. 12, 2015. Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the Fair Employment Practices Commission in 1941, which allowed African Americans to enlist into the armed service. Johnny joined the Marine Corps on Jan. 28, 1948. On June, 27 2012, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Marines who trained at Camp Montford, N.C. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by UIda Irby)
Congressional Gold Medals were awarded posthumously to families of four Montford Point Marines during the gala. Other former Montford Point Marines in attendance were Master Gunny Sgt. Carrol Braxton, Gunny Sgt. Richard Walker, Staff Sgt. Johnny B. Cody and Pfc. Stanley Tapscott.
Pfc. Freddie I. McDowell, of Sumter, South Carolina, enlisted into the Corps in 1944. His daughters Edna Williams, Fredonia Talley and Audrey McDowell were presented his medal.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Ashley Corley Jr., retired, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, completed his training at Montford Point and later enlisted in the Army. His son, Edward Corley, accepted his medal.
Sgt. Roger Thomas, of Washington, enlisted in the Corps July 2, 1943, and retired from 41 years of government service in 1983. Tondalier Thomas and retired Master Sgt. Rita Thomas accepted his medal with tear-filled eyes.
I was so amazed that someone would remember my father, said Rita; who continued the legacy of her father by joining the Corps.
Herman T. Preston Jr. accepted the award for his father, Herman T. Preston Sr., who enlisted in the Corps on Oct. 30, 1943.
“We will always honor the tenacious spirit of those Marines ... they are ordinary men who faced extraordinary challenges to commit their souls to earn the title Marine,” said retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Carmen Cole, vice president of MPMA 32.
Cole concluded the award presentation and introduced the guest speakers.
“When I look around the room, I see young people who are ready to step up. We ask everyone to do what Montford Point Marines did, which was make a commitment. Now is the time to do so,” said guest speaker Maj. Gen. Craig Q. Timberlake, Manpower Management Division.
An assembly of young JROTC students, active duty Marines, retired Marines and second-generation Marines, filled the room to honor the legacy of the Corps. Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric W. Nelson, Chapter 32 president, addressed the group saying, we welcome Marines coming up through the ranks into our organization; we have a wealth of knowledge in this room. I urge you to take time to speak to these veterans.
Throughout the year, Chapter 32 works to improve the social conditions of veterans, youth and local families as well as the growing population of senior citizens.
“Those Marines fought for the right to fight and stayed in the Corp to make a difference,” said newly elected national president Forest E. Spencer Jr.
Montford Point Marine Memorial Monument, a $2 million effort, is slated to be completed Oct. 9 at Camp Lejeune Memorial Gardens. The organization hopes to increase the membership of the organization and continue their commitment to make a difference and perpetuate the legacy of the Montford Point Marines.
By UIda Irby
U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico
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