The legacy of the 20,000 service members who overcame discrimination to train at Montford Point was honored with stirring speeches during the 26th annual Heritage Dinner Dance at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Feb. 22.
More than 200 guests, including Montford Point Marines Turner G. Blount, F.M. Hooper, Norman Preston and James B. Wilson attended the event where a memorial was presented as tribute to their history and service.
Other prominent guests at the sold-out event included Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, the first African-American to take command of the 1st Marine Division, and retired Maj. James Capers Jr., Silver Star recipient.
“This is Black History Month,” said Bailey, who now serves as the deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps, and served as the guest speaker at the event.“I find it fitting that the Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 10 uses this as an opportunity to celebrate. There is no better way to celebrate and recognize the month, than by honoring the heroes of Montford Point and one of our Vietnam heroes Mr. Capers.”
While reflecting on Black History Month, it’s important to look at it as a month of unity, added Bailey.
“It’s not just black history, it is American history,” said Bailey. “It’s all of our history and our culture.”
He noted many of today’s top Marine leaders are minorities who have gained the opportunity due in part to the Montford Point Marines’ trailblazing spirit.
“When you look back at what happened, and the time frame that it happened, you can see, appreciate and understand what their struggle was all about,” said Bailey. “You can understand the self-sacrifice.”
Bailey encouraged guests to support the Montford Point Memorial Project, which seeks to create monuments in honor of Montford Point Marines at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C.
The Montford Point Marines’ story is interwoven with not only American history, but with Marine Corps history, said Alfreda Carmichael, the president of the Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 10.
“We’re a product of what they went through,” said Carmichael.
Today’s Marines stand on the shoulders of the thousands who wanted to protect the country, even while it was divided by segregation, she added.
The Montford Point Marines’ legacy continues to influence Marines today.
2nd Supply Battalion shares the same mission Montford Point Marines held during World War II--providing logistical sustainment during combat, said Lt. Col. Jesse Kemp, the commanding officer of 2nd Supply Battalion.
“Tonight’s theme is preserving our legacy, and I’m proud to say, through our partnership with the Montford Point Association, we are doing just that,” said Kemp. “We are adding the motto ‘Legacy of Montford Point’ to our battalion logo.”
Volunteers from 2nd Supply Battalion also served as the color guard during the ceremony and built a field cross during the moment of remembrance at the conclusion of the ceremony.
“We are all honored to be a part of the ceremony,” said Kemp.
For more information about Montford Point Marine Association Chapter 10 and the Ladies Auxiliary, visit mpmalejeune10.org or call 333-8883.
For more information about the Montford Point Marines Memorial Project, visit mpmamemorial.com or call 850-499-6727.
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