CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines and Sailors in the Camp Lejeune area will join servicemembers throughout the American Armed Forces to observe Black History Month during February.
Various events are planned here to increase public awareness and show an appreciation for the unique role black Americans have played in shaping the nation.
"This is a time the Marine Corps has set aside to honor black Marines for their contributions to this nation for the past sixty or seventy years," said Staff Sgt. Terrance A. Gamble, the operations chief for the Staff Noncommissioned Officer's Academy on Camp Geiger.
Marines and Sailors can learn about the illustrious past of black Marines who helped pave a path for people of all races, according to Gamble.
"This month is a celebration of unification where everyone comes together. It demonstrates the positive changes of our nation and that people are making a step in the right direction," said Gunnery Sgt. Wanda D. Swindle, an Advance Course instructor at the SNCOA.
This month is not exclusive to just black Marines and Sailors. It is open to all races.
"The events on the different bases may be initiated by black men and women, but this should be a time when we pause and think about what the black Marine went through, opening the door for all races," said Master Sgt. Lee C. Moore, the SNCO in charge of the Advance Course at the SNCOA.
Black Americans have and continue to serve their country and the Corps with respect and dignity, according to Moore from Waukegan, Ill.
"People shouldn't concentrate on all the negative things we have gone through. Instead, look at where we are going and see that change is coming about," said Swindle of Virginia Beach, Va. "We have the ability today to do things we were not able to do before."
The Marine Corps has come a long way in a relatively small amount of time. It wasn't long ago that black Marines were separate from white Marines and trained at Montford Point, now known as Camp Johnson.
"Barriers are being broken," said Swindle.
Today, the top enlisted man in the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Alford L. McMichael, is a black man.
"Seeing a black man at the top of the enlisted ranks gives us the sense that now the stigma of race is going away," Moore said.
"He broke down the doors for all the other races and gave everybody hope to succeed," said Swindle.
"I hope that one day we can all come to a point where we don't judge people by the color of their skin, but by their character," continued Gamble.
Commanders are encouraged to acknowledge the achievements of black Americans, military and civilian, in the Marine Corps by conducting and encouraging participation in various events including local community programs.
The following is a partial list of scheduled events to be held in the Camp Lejeune area.
*Opening Ceremony, Feb. 2, 5-7 p.m., Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools Chapel, Guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Fetherson (8th Marines Sergeant Major)
*Annual Heritage Dinner Dance, Feb. 17, starts at 6 p.m., $20 per person, hosted by the Montford Point Marine Association, Guest speaker Brig. Gen. Cornell A. Wilson Jr., (commanding general, 4th Force Service Support Group, MARFORRES)
*Tarawa Terrace II, Feb. 22, 1:30-2:30 p.m., Tarawa Terrace II, Elementary School
*Luncheon, Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., M104 Field Medical Service School Auditorium,
Guest speaker Chaplain Mozon (Marine Corps Base Chaplain)
*Closing Ceremony, Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., MCCSSS Chowhal,
Guest Speaker (Mr. Leonard Hunter, spokesman for Tuskegee Airmen)
*Movies (All will be held in Bldg. M104, the FMSS Auditorium on Camp Johnson. They will start at 7 p.m., except Tuskegee Airmen, which will start at 4:30 p.m.)
Feb. 1 Glory
Feb. 8 Buffalo Soldiers
Feb. 15 Montford Point Marines
Feb. 23 Men of Honor
Feb. 27 Tuskegee Airmen (The original Airmen will be present for discussions and photo opportunities)