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Families Of Original Montford Point Marines Honored With Congressional Gold Medals
A legacy of service that began in 1942 was honored this week at Camp Johnson.
Congressional Gold Medals were awarded to the families of three Montford Point Marines Thursday during a ceremony at the Bachelor Officers Quarters aboard Camp Johnson to honor the service and sacrifice of the country’s first black Marines.
For retired Marine Will Smith, the medal ceremony solidified the legacy of service that his grandfather began in 1942 when he stepped foot in the racially segregated training camp of Montford Point, which is what is now known as Camp Johnson.
“My grandfather was one of the original Montford Point Marines,” said Smith, a recently retired major in the Marine Corps. “He enlisted in the Marine Corps back in 1942 and served in Saipan, California, and … here on Camp Johnson. This is where all of the character and integrity was instilled in him.”
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller, commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force, presents a certificate of recognition and a congressional gold medal to Maj. Will Smith, retired, in behalf of Sherman Ray during the Montford Point Marines Day Ceremony held aboard Camp Johnson, N.C. August 25, 2016.U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Laura Mercado
The Marine Corps began accepting black service members after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941, which prohibited racial discrimination in the national defense industry.
It was the first federal action, though not a law, that promoted equal opportunity and prohibited employment discrimination in the United States.
That federal action prompted the construction of Montford Point, where approximately 20,000 black recruits trained from 1942-1949, until President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order that ended segregation in the military on July 26, 1948.
In 2010, a Senate resolution named Aug. 26 Montford Point Marines Day.
During Thursday’s ceremony Smith accepted the medal on behalf of his grandfather, Sherman Ray.
“The amazing thing is I was able to get promoted the first time and the last time right on this same base,” Smith said on Thursday morning. “It brought back some nostalgia and a lot of history of our family that we can keep the legacy going.”
Luther Rountree and John Cassidy Dockery accepted medals on behalf of their fathers, Rufus Rountree and John Henry Dockery, respectively.
In addition to receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, the families received a letter from President Barack Obama, a Congressional Gold Medal Citation and Senate Resolution 587.
“The legacy that the Montford Point Marines left behind them is very important for the Marines coming through Camp Johnson,” said Col. David Grant, commanding officer of Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools and area commander of Camp Johnson. “We’re actually standing on, or very close to, where those first Marines trained. This was the training ground.
“This ceremony today is a debt that we can’t ever repay to those Marines that came before us, but it is our form of showing respect.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress.
© 2016 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A collision between a Coast Guard boat and a Navy vessel near Kodiak Island, Alaska on Wednesday landed six coasties and three sailors to the hospital, officials said.
The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.
A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.
The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.
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Six years after the Pentagon officially opened combat roles to women in 2013, 613 female Marines and sailors now serve in them, according to new data released by the Marine Corps.
"Females are now represented in every previously-restricted occupational field," reads a powerpoint released this month on the Marine Corps Integration Implementation Plan (MCIIP), which notes that 60% of those female Marines and sailors now serving in previously-restricted units joined those units in the past year.
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Gabriel Romero, a sailor on the submarine USS Columbia, fatally shot two civilian workers and wounded a third while the Los Angeles-class vessel is in Dry Dock 2 for a two-year overhaul, according to The Associated Press and other sources.
Romero "opened fire on shipyard personnel with his M-4 service rifle and then turned his M9 service pistol on himself," Fox News Pentagon reporter Lucas Tomlinson reported, citing a preliminary incident report.
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was not able to provide information Thursday on a report that multiple suicides have occurred on the Columbia.
Hawaii News Now said Romero was undergoing disciplinary review and was enrolled in anger management classes.