MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- For the first time, a public viewing of the documentary “The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom” was viewed at the Northside High School auditorium Feb. 15.
“Having the opportunity to have the actual individuals in this documentary is truly special, and it gives the gentlemen a place in history so that their struggles are not forgotten,” said McLaurin
The history of the Montford Point Marines dates back to June 25, 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 establishing the fair employment practice that began to erase discrimination in the Armed Forces.
Following its implementation in 1942, the Montford Point Recruit Depot opened its doors to the Marine Corps’s first black recruits at what is now Camp Johnson, a satellite facility of Camp Lejeune.
Even though the executive order allowed blacks to serve, America was still racially segregated leaving whites to train at Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island, S.C. and San Diego, Calif., and blacks at Montford Point.
Montford Point’s training continued, with more than 20,000 Marines graduated, until July, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the armed forces. Montford Marine Camp was deactivated - ending seven years of segregation, in September, 1949, according to the Montford Point Marine Association Web site located at www.montfordpointmarines.com
This history hits epically close to home with Finney Greggs, director of the Montford Point Marines Museum on Camp Johnson.
“These Marines went through so much and deserve the recognition,” said Greggs. “This isn’t a black thing, its American history, its Marine Corps History.”
Some people, even after a visit to Greggs museum, learned something from the documentary.
“The museum should be on every lover of Marine Corps history places to visit, but this documentary has opened my eyes to how the corps used to be,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Tim Wones, hospital corpsman for the Public Heath Services Department of the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. “Their personal experiences really bring the story to life.”
Col. Adele E. Hodges, commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, had her own personal perspective of the documentary being the first black commander of Lejeune.
“These gentlemen paved the way and cemented the path so that many of us who now serve would never have to endure the pain and humiliation that they endured just to do the right thing — fight beside their fellow Americans,” said Hodges. “They knew if they failed those following wouldn’t have a chance.”
“I would venture to say, the Marine Corps would not be the Marine Corps that we know today,” said Hodges. “They have earned the right to be counted in our list of Marine Corps Heroes.” she said.
“I am proud to walk in the path of such heroes, because I know I would not be here today, serving my country and my Marine Corps, had it not been for their struggle,” concluded Hodges.
Being the current and first black commander of Camp Johnson, Col. Grover C. Lewis had some powerful words to say about those Marines who used to train on his base.
“When I saw the documentary three words come to mind history …heritage …and hope, those Montford Pointers were bridge builders and they’ve made a bridge for me to cross,” said Lewis.
Plans to roll out the documentary to national and international cable outlets are currently underway, said McLaurin. To obtain a copy of the documentary, contact Dustin Miller at 962-4082.