SGT. SHAFT: Flag presented during burial of veteran is on behalf of the president

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The history of Montford Point is rooted in pride and prejudice, according to the Montfort Point Marines Association. President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened up the military services to recruit blacks in 1941, but it still took a 1942 presidential directive to give them the opportunity to be recruited into the Marine Corps. Instead of going to established training facilities on Parris Island, S.C., or in San Diego, Calif., a segregated boot camp called Montford Point was created next to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where 20,000 black Marines would eventually be trained between 1942 and 1949.

In a July 30 speech in Atlanta before the Montford Point Marines Association, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said their story and struggle for equality and acceptance in the Corps did not end when they left Montford Point; rather, it had just begun, because they were not allowed to become infantrymen or to serve in other mainstream military occupational specialties.

Their courage under fire and fidelity to fellow Marines, regardless of skin color, began to erode the cruel and false generational stereotype within the Corps that blacks could not, and would not, fight in the face of danger. This led Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, who had observed the courage of black Marines in hand-to-hand combat on Saipan, to say “The experiment with the Negro Marines is over. They are Marines … period!”

As the Marine Corps prepares for its 236th birthday on Nov. 10, the VFW national commander said there could be no more fitting tribute than for the Senate to announce beforehand that they, too, agree that the Montford Point Marines should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“This is about properly honoring a group of patriotic Americans who battled an enemy abroad and racism at home,” said Cmdr. DeNoyer, who is now asking his 2 million VFW and Auxiliary members to urge their U.S. senators to pass S. 1527. “This recognition is long overdue, and with the VFW’s support, we hope it soon becomes reality.”

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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