MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Today, the sound of “OOH RAH” can be heard from people from various backgrounds and “Semper Fidelis” runs through the blood streams and beats through the hearts of enlisted and officer ranks through a diverse group of Marines. African-American officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted personnel are omnipresent, and their service is now a normal part of Marine life. According to Wikipedia, African-Americans comprise one-fifth of the total troop strength of the Marine Corps. Marines serve in a fully integrated Corps in which it escapes notice that the Marine Corps was once segregated.
The United States Marine Corps was born during the American Revolutionary War as the Continental Marines. They were formed in Tun Tavern, Pa. by a resolution of the Continental Congress on Nov. 10, 1775. It was not until 1942 that the Marine Corps became the diverse Corps that is known today.
Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, establishing the Fair Employment Practice Commission and prohibiting racial discrimination by any government agency. This gesture opened the doors to eager African-American men yearning to become a part of the Nation’s supreme fighting force: The United States Marine Corps.
Although black men were now accepted into the Corps, they were sent to Montford Point, N.C. for boot camp. Camp Montford Point would become the recruitment and advanced training facility for all black Marine enlistees from 1942 through 1949. According to Wikipedia, from its humble beginnings Camp Montford Point would rise to the occasion and pass over 20,000 African Americans through its hallowed grounds, and men who became Marines at Camp Montford Point would go on to serve their country with honor and distinction during the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and beyond.
Just under their year mark, Montford Point Marine Association, Inc. (MPMA) Ch. 32 paid homage to the brave men that had their first beginnings of Marine Corps life at Montford Point, N.C. by hosting their first annual Commemorative Ball at the Clubs of Quantico, Aug. 25.
“Aug. 26, 1942 marked an instrumental day in history,” said MPMA Quantico Ch. 32 President Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Averhart. “We wanted our ball to commemorate the day the first African-American men went to Montford Point, N.C. for boot camp.”
Sixty-four years ago, the first Black Marines left their wives, children, mothers and fathers to protect their country and on Aug. 25 seven original Montford Point Marines attended the MPMA Ch. 32 Ball to be honored and preserve their legacy. Approximately 264 attendees came from New Jersey, Philadelphia, North Carolina, New York, Chicago, Maryland and Washington, D.C. to bear witness to the historic event.
The Master of Ceremony, MPMA member Mr. Eric Cole, guided the audience through an event-filled, historic night. Finance Officer, Quantico, Maj. Michael Williams, did a passionate monologue “A Tribute to Montford Point.” Various MPMA members presented an “I am” presentation, educating the audience on Black movers and shakers in the Marine Corps. Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael, 14th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was the Keynote speaker.
“I felt honored and humbled that they allowed me to speak at such a commemorative ceremony,” said Sgt. Maj. Alford McMichael, the first African-American Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. “I think we captured the importance of tonight by recognizing the contributions of the Montford Point Marines and not letting their story fade away.”
McMichael ended his speech charging Marines and civilians to join their local chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc. to support a “dynamic” organization.
“It was a powerful event,” said Averhart. “A message was truly sent and the time has come to tell the story and contributions of the Montford Point Marines.”
MPMA Quantico Ch. 32 became an official organization on Nov. 18, 2005.
MPMA National President Master Gunnery Sgt. Joe Geeter (Ret.) believes that for Quantico Ch. 32 to be a young chapter they have set the pace for other chapters to follow.
MPMA Quantico Ch. 32 will sponsor families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. They will also have their 2nd Annual Heritage Dinner and Social in February.
For more information or to become apart of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc. Quantico Ch. 32 contact Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Averhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (540) 446-3377. Also to learn more about the Montford Point Marines visit www.montfordpointmarines.com.