MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Montford Point, North Carolina. This was segregated training ground from
1942 to 1949 for the nation’s first African-American Marines. Now, a
new memorial stands outside the gates of Camp Johnson to commemorate
their historic achievements in the face of racial segregation.
Hundreds of Montford Point Marines, family members, active duty
servicemembers and supporters gathered to witness the official
dedication of the National Montford Point Marine Memorial at Marine
Corps Base Camp Lejeune July 29.
“Today, as a result of the hard work and perseverance of so many of you
here, across the country and those no longer with us, that vision is now
a reality,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, commanding general of
Marine Corps Installations East – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “This
inspiring memorial takes it rightful place among the other silent
testimonials to the courage, dedication and sacrifice of our men and
women who have worn the cloth of this nation.”
In the center of the grounds, a bronze 15-foot statue represents those
African-American Marines who left behind combat support duties in the
Marine Corps to pick up a rifle to be a part of the main effort along
with their counterparts.
Behind the statue stands the 90-mm M1A1 anti-aircraft gun, the primary
anti-aircraft weapon of the Montford Point Marines with the 51st and
52nd Defense Battalions.
To the statue’s left is a marble wall with 20,000 stars to honor the
approximate number of African American Marines who trained there before
they were integrated. No official records were kept at the time to
identify each one.
“This is something that I never thought would be possible,” said Ivor
Griffin, Montford Point Marine who served 23 years enlisted. “I heard
about it being in the making, and I thought it couldn’t be true, I
thought we were the forgotten 20,000.”
Smiles and tears shown on the faces of these aged Marines each time a
new speaker came to the podium and recounted the history of what these
men had done, and on more than one occasion, they gave motivated shouts
of encouragement; this was their day.
“I’m very thrilled to be here and very thrilled knowing that we will be
remembered,” said Griffin. “[There are] only about 400 of us living, but
those of us who are able to be here, we are grateful for what has
happened here today, and what has happened in the past.”