MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. -- Over 100 Marines from the Center of Naval Aviation Technical Training visited the Montford Point Marines Museum for a period of military education for Black History Month Feb. 13.
This PME was held to teach the young Marines something they haven't been introduced to yet, said Sgt. Maj. Steven R. Head, CNATT sergeant major.
"It's the history not taught at Parris Island or San Diego," he said. "Most of the Marines had no idea about the sacrifices that black Marines had to go through."
Although Black History Month is important, that wasn't what this day was all about, said Louise Greggs.
"All Marines need to know what black Marines went through. It's about Marine Corps history and American history, not just black history," said Greggs, who has been in charge of designs and displays for the Montford Point Museum for the last three years.
Black Marines were first allowed into the Marine Corps in June 1941, according to the Web site http://www.fatherryan.org/blackmilitary/montford.htm. At that period in time, the race issue in the United States was taboo. Many people would not allow black Marines to be trained at the same facilities as white Marines.
"I didn't even know the Marine Corps was segregated until I came here," said Lance Cpl. Nicholas A. Inca, a CNATT student and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native.
Another portion of the Web site stated that a separate training facility was used for black men. The facility was located at Camp Lejeune, N. C., Camp Montford Point.
"Marines don't learn about black history in boot camp. The story about black Marines should be known by all Marines," said Orvia Cottman, a retired gunnery sergeant who joined in 1944 and went to recruit training at Montford Point.
According to the Web site http://www.montfordpointmarines.com, the Montford Point Marine Museum was established to preserve the legacy of black Marines from 1942 to 1949.
The museum's goal is to collect, record, preserve and display the largest collection of photographs, documents, papers, and artifacts on the history of black Marines in the early to late 1940s.
The museum is not a facility service members know a lot about, said Sgt. Chris R. Verrette, a CH-46E eye level mechanic instructor with CNATT.
"You should come and at least look around; I didn't even know it was here until a few weeks ago," said Verette, who hails from Twinoaks, Okla.
The museum offers displays of black Marines who contributed undying loyalty to the Marine Corps, as well as photos of their training. But what most moved Lance Cpl. Leonardo Rodriguez, was a Medal of Honor display he had no idea existed.
"You read the stories of what the Marines did, and you feel something right here (touches his throat) it is very moving," said Rodriguez, a CNATT student and native of Montclair, N.J.