MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — -- The Montfort Point Marine Association and Montfort Point Marine Women’s Auxiliary Association conducted the 64th Camp Johnson Rededication Wreath Laying ceremony here June 23.
The associations gather every year in June to honor the 2,000 African American Marines who overcame adversity and fought for the right to fight for their country, according to Nathaniel James, president of the Montfort Point Marine Association.
“They have changed history. Initially the American public thought they were inferior, but their contribution to the Marine Corps has shown them otherwise, and I think that the Corps and America has accepted that now,” James said.
The ceremony is conducted every year in June even though the original wreath laying was performed in April 19, 1974 because June was when Executive Order 1882 was published allowing African Americans to join the Marine Corps, according to James.
The idea of the wreath ceremony was to bring all the Montfort Point Marines back to where they came from, and also to honor the Marines that gave the ultimate sacrifice in battle and others who have passed away since, according to James.
“It’s a joy to come back and know that we as Montfort Pointers made sure that the Marine Corps integrated,” said Turner Blount, a Jacksonville City Councilman and original Montfort Point Marine. “It feels good to look around and see how far we have come.”
The Montfort Point Marines underwent great adversity to pave the way for the future of African American Marines, according to James.
“For me the ceremony is very heart warming. It gives me a chance to talk about the bridge builders and pavers who allowed me to be where I am today,” said Col. Grover C. Lewis, the Commander of Camp Johnson. “I think it is very important that we remember this because it is history, not just African American history, but Marine Corps history.”