CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Some history making Marines recently spent some time in Charlotte right before Labor Day. The National Montford Point Marine Association held its 54th Convention in the Queen City. The Montford Point Marines were the first African Americans allowed to join the Marine Corps. They enlisted in 1942. There were about 20,000 African American Marines who had to train at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, NC because of segregation.
Some of the Montford Point Marines are still alive and came to the convention. They remember what they had to go through because of their color. 90 year old Eugene Groves remembers being called names and his family being disrespected by other Marines who didn’t look like him. Back in 2011, the Montford Point Marines received one of the highest civilian honors because of what they had to go through because of their color. They were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011. 90 year old Eugene Groves still remembers getting that award.
“I was so happy,” 90 year old Marine Eugene Groves said. “I just felt like crying you know - it was really something to finally get some recognition for all the hardship that we had to endure.”
The Association is still trying to give out the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. The organization says each of the 20,000 Marines in the group deserves to get their medal.
“To date we have only awarded less than 2,000 of these Gold Medals,” Past National NMPMA President Joe Geeter said. “So we are asking families to seek us out seek out - The National Montford Point Marine Association and make contact with us - so we can identify yourself so that you can receive the Congressional Gold Medal.”
Camp Montford Point was decommissioned in 1949. Groves joined the Marines back in 1946. He remembers fighting in the Korean War. He says he knew he wanted to join the Marines at a young age. When he turned 17 he says he went to sign up. He says the recruiter asked if he wanted to sign up for 18 months, two years or four years. He said four years. He stayed in the Armed Forces for 20 years.
“I am still proud of the Marine Corps,” 90 year old Marine Eugene Groves said. “Because it still stands out. I still think we are the best dressed and the best trained, sharpest military outfit out there. And I see these young Marines around here walking around and I say they’re very bright and I say the future is in good hands.”
At the Convention the attendees discussed Veteran Benefits, Education, and Outreach programs. Families of Camp Montford Marines still come to the convention so they can continue to be part of their loved ones legacy. The next convention will be next year in Philadelphia.