JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – The National Montford Point Marine Association is hosting its annual Montford Point Marine ceremony and annual convention this morning.
The Friday morning ceremony remembers the first African Americans who enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War ll, and who trained at Camp Montford Point in Jacksonville, as well as the modern-day site of Camp Jackson.
“I used to play around in the navy yard,” said F.M. Hooper, a retired Montford Point Marine. “I saw the marines and the dress blues and I said that’s the branch I want to join, so I did.”
Fifty-five Montford Marines will be honored with a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal. Nine of the Montford Point Marines who are still alive and family members of the fallen received medals to remember and honor those who served their country.
“They’re disappearing,” said Britton Jr, the US Ambassador and Montford Point Marine. “That’s why i wanted to pay special respects to Mr. Eaglin who died at the age of 108.”
After hearing the news about the passing of Cosmas Eaglin and Theodore Peters, Hooper started a project to remember those who are no longer with us has packages ready to be sent to family members of the fallen.
“I have four condolences packages to prepare right now,” said Hooper. “I got Cosmos Eaglin, Eddie Hicks, Nathaniel Boone, and Theodore Peters.”
Jacksonville officials such as Mayor Sammy Phillips attended and spoke at the event. However, the keynote speaker is North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
“To the nine Montford Point Marines who are present here today,” said Stein. “It’s hard to put into words how much we thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your courage.”
The ceremony on Friday was to recognize the sacrifices and hardships they went through during June 1942 to Sept. 1949 out on the battlefield.
“I am so happy to see them recognized,” said Theodore Britton Jr. “I am only sorry that the fellas did not live long enough to be there themselves.”
This year’s ceremony honored the largest group of Montford Point Marines.