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Montford Point Marines Know The Meaning of Freedom
J.T. Inge is a veteran, Original Montford Point Marine and Congressional Gold Medal recipient.
BALTIMORE, MD – Feb, 24, 2017 (MNISAASHELTER) Grandchildren of slaves, born in the South, they've been at the forefront of history, breaking barriers and standing up for what is right amidst racism, discrimination and segregation. And they achieved this by serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. They are original members of the Montford Point Marines. Entering service during the 1940s, are stories of patriotism, valor and service in the face of prejudice, they were among the first African Americans to be permitted to take up arms for our country. Instead of sending the new recruits to the camps designated for training at that time, African Americans were shipped to Montford Point in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They became trailblazers, with their contribution to American history recording how they were treated.
“Slavery produced a by-product that stigmatized blacks. Blacks were considered to have strong backs and weak minds. We couldn’t think. We needed to be told everything that needed to be done. There was a resentment that this was an elite society preserved for whites only and that’s what happened in the Marine Corps. From 1775, when the Marine Corps was organized, it was an all-white, elite fighting unit, and there was a resentment from people who felt you were invading their territory.”
“We were not free. We couldn’t sit at the front of the bus, we couldn’t go to a movie, couldn’t eat at a restaurant. You could go all over the country and not be permitted to use a bathroom; all this was denied. Even though we were all Marines we were kept separate. Montford was in the southern part of Camp Lejeune, this swamp part, I mean mud. We didn’t have barracks, we lived in huts, built from cardboard, painted green. Camp Lejeune had barracks but we had huts. It was located in the back woods, amid water, snakes and bears."
“The huts did not provide too much protection from the wind,” declares Inge, who arrived at Montford Point just after World War II. “I don't remember having windows but we had one door and one stove in the middle of the building, and bunks. You had a footlocker to put your clothes in. You were issued a razor, a mirror, two bars of soap, one to wash your clothes with. Nothing much else.”
"The easiest thing you can do is quit. When I went through boot camp I had this in my mind, not to give up no matter how rough. My drill instructor said, I want you to run out to the bay and get me a handful of water. And I was running out there to get a handful of water and run back. I never could make it. After so many trips, he told me, ‘You don’t have to do this. You can't do it.’ It wasn’t me who quit. I was determined, but the instructor stopped me from doing it. Because of my father, I was prepared to meet any challenges they had there."
J.T. Inge spoke about the challenges African-American Marines faced even in their off-time stating
"if we wanted to go out for a meal, there was only one restaurant in town that would serve us. Catching a bus ride home was also tough.There wasn't a waiting room for blacks at the bus station and we had to wait outside no matter the weather. And if a bus came and there were no seats on there for blacks you had to stand up.”
“The things that were happening, the type of training, you had to march to the mess hall down a long road. By the time you got there, most of the time you were too tired to enjoy your food. All these things were part of the challenge you were faced with but because of the determination, the pressure you were under, what was put on you, was making you a better person. Like temper and steel. When you came out of boot camp you felt like you could conquer the world. There was nothing you couldn't do.”
These African American men had the courage to accept a challenge that changed the course of history; true heroes that paved the way for those that came after. For decades, the Montford Point Marines received little recognition for their contribution to U.S. history. Some even paid the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for their fellow Marines and country country and fellow Marines during a time of adversity and despondency when they were neither accepted by the Marines Corps nor their own country for which they served. They endured racial discrimination and disrespect because of the color of their skin. Despite their disparate treatment, these men fought and died for their country, these men proved themselves worthy of the title, United States Marine.
We ackowledge the Montford Point Marines dedication and its role in paving the way for other minorities to be integrated into the Marine Corps. Through their sacrifice, they ushered in a social and cultural change in the Marine Corps that created a lasting impact. After returning home, many Montford Point Marines became leaders in the American civil rights movement. Their successes outside the Marine Corps are equally as important as their legacy within the Marine Corps.
The Montford Point Marines were eventually honored for their service and contribution to American history. Former President Barack Obama stated "“These men helped advance civil rights....These heroes paved the way for future generations of warriors.”
October 25, 2011: The House votes to award the Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal, and President Barack Obama signs the bill into law on Nov. 23.
June 27, 2012: At the Capital Visitors Center, Washington, DC in Emancipation Hall, 63 years after the camp they trained at closed its doors, the Congressional Gold Medal was finally awarded to the Montford Point Marines. The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, serves to honor and solidify their dedication, perseverance, and bravery.
My father and the others Marines risked their lives to establishment a world which would be welcoming to all. On behalf of our country, our citizens, and our faith; we salute you. "Semper Fi."