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Nov-09-2011 01:01printcomments

Bipartisan Senators Urge Passage of Montford Marines Congressional Gold Medal Bill

The 236th Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps approaches while Montford Marines Recognition lingers 50 years overdue.

Kay Hagan with a Montford Point Marine from WWII.
Kay Hagan with a Montford Point Marine from WWII. Photo courtesy: Charlotte Post

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - United States Senator Kay R. Hagan (NC) and a bipartisan group of Senators are calling on their colleagues to cosponsor legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines, the first African Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation on Oct. 25, but the Senate faces a 67-cosponsor minimum before Senate Bill S.1527 can be brought to the floor for a vote.

With the 236th Anniversary of the Marine Corps approaching on Nov. 10, Senator Hagan and this bipartisan group are urging their colleagues to join them in honoring and recognizing the Montford Point Marines.

"This legislation is 50 years overdue," said Hagan. "The Montford Point Marines, based out of North Carolina, have waited too long already for recognition they deserve for their service and sacrifice. The courage and dedication with which these brave men served our country despite discrimination and intolerance is nothing less than heroic."

Senator Hagan introduced this legislation on Sept. 8 with Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patrick Roberts (R-KS), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) as lead sponsors. Today the bill has 32 cosponsors.

Blumenthal said, "As the first African American Marines, the Montford Marines courageously fought on two fronts: in WWII and at home. They put their lives at risk for their country while challenging racism and segregation, and their bravery is a testament to the valor of the Marine Corps as a whole. There is no better way to celebrate the 265th anniversary of the Marine Corps than to honor their perseverance and patriotism by passing this bill and awarding the Montford Marines the Congressional Gold Medal."

"As the Senate's most Senior Marine, I urge my colleagues to support this bill in honor of 19, 168 African American Marines that fought bravely for our freedom in World War II despite segregation and intolerance," Senator Roberts said. "They made our nation and the Corps what it is today. Semper Fi."

"The Montford Point Marines did their duty serving their country despite the extraordinary challenges they faced," said Schumer. "Now it is our duty to ensure that their historic service is appropriately remembered and celebrated."

The Montford Point Marines is the name given to the first African Americans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. They were trained at Camp Montford Point, near Jacksonville, North Carolina. African Americans were brought into the Marine Corps in 1941, as a result of an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The executive order, which established the Fair Employment Practices Commission, stated that "there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." Overall, 19,168 African American Marines received training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949, many of whom participated in the Pacific Theatre Campaign of World War II, distinguishing themselves by acts of great valor.

As Congress's highest national honor, the Congressional Gold Medal would provide a fitting tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Montford Point Marines during World War II. The Congressional Gold Medal will be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will be displayed, as appropriate, and made available for research. The service of these Marines, as warriors in the Pacific and pioneers in American society, has made America stronger in its endeavors abroad and mindful of the need for continued work against discrimination at home.

Since 1965, the Montford Point Marine Association, a charitable nonprofit veterans organization, has preserved the legacy of the first African American Marines and today the Association has 36 chapters throughout the United States. This Association has several memorials in place to perpetuate the memory of the Montford Marines and their accomplishments.

Also see: Congressional Gold Medal for Montford Point Marines - Coral Anika Theill Special to

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Tim King November 9, 2011 1:42 am (Pacific time)

Kay Hagan has been extremely helpful over the issues regarding the contamination of Camp Lejeune, her efforts are greatly appreciated and almost always bi-partisan.

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