Family members of first black Marines will be awarded Congressional Gold Medals

The Montford Point Marines. (Source: visitjacksonvillenc.com)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Seventy-five years ago, a group of men started training in hopes of becoming the first black Marines.

Next week, their courage and bravery will be remembered at an event in Jacksonville.

Leroy Lee Jr., 70, of Wilmington, will be there with his family to accept the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his late father, Leroy Lee Sr., who was one of the Montford Point Marines.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor given to a civilian for service to his or her country.

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Between 1942 and 1949, 20,000 Marines received basic training at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune.

The Montford Point Marines fought in World War II.

President Truman gave the order to desegregate in 1948 and the Montford Point Marine Camp at Camp Lejeune was deactivated, ending seven years of segregation.

Congress voted unanimously in 2012 to give Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal for their role in integrating the military and nation.

That year, 368 were honored.

The celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first men arriving at Montford Point will be held at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the Montford Point Memorial in Jacksonville.

At the event, the Lee family will join three other families who will be awarded the gold medal in honor of their loved ones who served.

To learn more about the event and the unit, click here.

Sadly, many of the names of the Montford Point Marines have been lost. The Montford Point Marine Association only has names of about 1,200 who served.

The group and the City of Jacksonville are searching for the men and their families to make them aware they are eligible for the award.

“We know that there are still people living near us that don’t know they are qualified to receive this honor,” said Houston Shinal, director of the Montford Point Marine Museum.

If you believe you know a Montford Point Marine who has not been honored, contact Carman Cole, national secretary of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc., at 706-840-1789, or email nationalsecretary@montfordpointmarines.org.

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.

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