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Montford Point Marines and the Congressional Gold Medal

In honor of its 30th anniversary, VA’s Center for Minority Veterans is recognizing Congressional Gold Medal recipients/groups for each month of 2024. During Black History Month, we honor and remember the Montford Point Marines’ courage, determination, and sacrifice. These brave men were the first African Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, paving the way for future generations of minorities in the military. 

The Montford Point Marines, also known as the “Forgotten Warriors,” were named after the segregated Montford Point training camp in North Carolina. Before 1941, African Americans were not allowed to serve in the Marine Corps. However, with the onset of World War II, the need for more service members led President Franklin Roosevelt to issue an Executive Order establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission in June of that year. This order prohibited discrimination in the defense industry and paved the way for African Americans to serve in the military.

These brave men faced many challenges during their service. Despite being trained for it, they were often given menial tasks and were not allowed to participate in combat roles. The Montford Point Marines also faced discrimination and racism from within the military. They were not allowed to serve in certain units and were often denied promotions and recognition for their achievements. As the war progressed and the need for more personnel increased, the Montford Point Marines were finally given the opportunity to fight alongside their white counterparts. They proved themselves to be skilled and dedicated Marines, earning the respect and admiration of their peers. Even in the harshest conditions, these brave men persevered and became some of the most highly decorated and respected Marines in history.

After years of seeking recognition, the Montford Point Marines received the highest civilian honor in the United States. President Barack Obama signed legislation to award these Marines the Congressional Gold Medal in November 2011. This honor is awarded to individuals who have significantly contributed to American history and culture. The Montford Point Marines certainly fit these criteria, as they served their country honorably and paved the way for future generations of African Americans in the military.

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