One of those 20,000 African-American men who trained for the U.S. Marines at the brutal Montford Point segregated boot camp between 1942 and 1949 offered a heartbreaking remembrance to a News & Observer correspondent. He recalled that when he was stationed at the place near Camp Lejeune, where nearby Jacksonville was harshly segregated, he had to ride in the back of a bus even if I had my uniform on.
Last Wednesday, John Thompson, 86, and other Montford Point alums stood up front to receive the nations highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. This had been in the works for some time, but the ceremony was moving indeed for the diminished number of veterans who attended in Washington, courtesy of the Corps. These Marines, from a time when the military and much of American life was segregated, are in good company. George Washington got the medal. So did the Wright brothers and Thomas Edison.
And now it must be said that they are in good company, too.