Many years ago the Marines formulated 2 of many endearing terms: “Oo-rah and Semper Fi”. It was heard around the world and is still heard today. An unimaginable, elite group of Marines fittingly named ”the Montford Point Marines”, who trained at Montford Point ,a base in North Carolina near Camp LeJeune. Which incidentally is the largest Amphibious Marine Corps base in the world. “Back then it wasn’t too shabby in the space area either. But those who have not been enlightened yet or simply cannot understand “why these distinguished warriors – Marines on all levels (some even surpassed those levels) could not share space with their white counterparts?” By the way, Semper Fi is short for (Semper) Fidel us, meaning “always faithful.”
Throughout the years, the Montford Point Marine received little recognition and few accolades for their contribution to U.S. history. More than 19,000 black Marines trained at Montford Point Camp, a facility set up exclusively for blacks during World War II after President Franklin Roosevelt desegregated the Marine Corps. About 13,000 of them served overseas during the war.
Over the years, the vast majority of the men have passed away. Those who survived have grown old and gray. 63 years after the camp they trained (Montford Point) closed its doors, 368 surviving Montford Point Marines was finally recognized last month by Congress with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the congressional gold medal.
On July 10, 2012, The Wilmington, NC Chapter of Montford Point Marines was given a star studded reception at city Hall, and they were the stars! All but one, who was wheelchair bound but quite alert; stood tall when their name was called. Dressed to the nines in their proud dress blue Marine Corps Uniform and adorned with medals and badges of hard earned honor.
Also on hand were Wilmington dignitaries, Mayor Bill Saffo, Mayor Pro-Tem Earl Sheridan and County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.
City Council Members; Charlie Rivenbark, Margaret Haynes, Kevin O’Grady, Laura Padgett and Neil Anderson. City Clerk, Penny Spicer-Sidbury and former Councilman Ernie Sparks were there in support of the honoree’s too. Ms. Glancy Thomas and Margaret Harris were just a few members of the Commission on African American History, present at our press time. They put on a five star reception fitting for some of our country’s newest “Recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal.” After all, these guys persevered, endured, sacrificed and salvaged – all necessary in World War II, so that other service men and women could follow in their footsteps and not have to.
As their names were called off by reception moderator, Todd S. McFadden from the Commission on African American History, these honorable men beamed with pride, to say the least!
Ivan LeBlanc, Robert Burns, James Wilson, Howards Spencer, Francis Harper, Wilson Thigpen and the wheelchair bound warrior ;Arthur Obee. The Lord Spencer Compton Conference Room of Port City’s, City Hall accommodated the honorees, their wives, (adult) children, grandchildren and other guest. “Man is it packed in here”, said one guest to another. That guest responded back, “but can you think of a better cause?” The Commission on African American History is a division of the City of Wilmington, NC. See. www.wilmingtonnc.gov . For more about the Montford Point Marines information see: www.montfordpointmarines.com