MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Just more than 59 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 8802 that established the Fair Employment Practices Commission.
This commission was to affirm "...the policy of full participation in the defense program by all persons regardless of color, race, creed or national origin..."
Ultimately, the order mandated all departments within the U.S. government, including the Armed Forces, would be a forerunner in erasing discrimination because of color and race.
The historic significance of this order has been undeniably seen through out the last few decades of U.S. military history.
It began a gleaming legacy, established by African-Americans for their tireless commitment to professional performance, also consistent within the ethos that comprises the coveted title -U.S. Marine.
During the tumultuous 60s, this legacy stirred a few Montford Point brethren here to assemble and make their story known to the American public.
The Montford Point Marine Association was born in July 1965. The organization is primarily composed of black Marine veterans who were dedicated towards celebrating the achievements and sacrifices made by African-Americans Marines who trained here at Montford Point-today known as Camp Johnson.
Arriving here last Wednesday, faithful members continued the celebration as the Association's 35th annual convention, and for the first time, came to the place of its inception (Camp Johnson), with on-going events wrapping up Saturday.
"The gathering here is itself an historic event," explained one MPMA member CWO5 Houston T. Shinal. "This is the first time the annual convention has been held in the Jacksonville, N.C./Lejeune area. We're naming the event "Return to Hallowed Ground."
According to Shinal, the chapter that organizes the convention annually puts the event up for bids, and normally the place that houses the best accommodations to support the association is the awarded site.
"Until recently, the Jacksonville area didn't have enough hotels or other facilities to adequately host the convention," he said.
However, this year that's no longer true as the association visits its birthplace which is now home to Camp Lejeune's Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools presently headed by Col. Les Stein.
Graduating more than 10,000 students every year, the historic meeting could engage the curiosity of many Marines and Sailors studying at the different MCCSSS schools aboard the "hallowed grounds" of Montford Point.
The permanent staff aboard Johnson also welcomed the association's arrival.
"This event provides us with a unique opportunity to celebrate the rich history of Camp Johnson and to show our appreciation to those Marines who sacrificed so much for the future of our Corps," said Stein.
The purpose of their gathering is the same today as with the original Montford Pointers -- to reflect on great stories of great Americans.
In addition to commemorating past heroes, the reunion also allows members to highlight civic and educational assistance programs sponsored by the MPMA's twenty-six chapters throughout the United States.
"During the course of this celebration the Montford Points Marines are providing us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the many accomplishments of our past and to anticipate an even better future."
Business sessions will be held today and Saturday at Bldg. M104 on Camp Johnson at 9 a.m. The MPMA Ladies Auxiliary meetings will also meet at 9 a.m. both days at the Comfort Suites Hotel conference room.
The convention Banquet Saturday will highlight the reunion with keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, Director, Marine Corps Staff.
For more information, contact CWO5 Shinal at 219-7880 or Leroy Mundy at 346-2211.