From its very beginning I have enjoyed watching NCIS, maybe because it is connected with the Navy or maybe because I enjoy the actors and the stories. Last night was special because it centered around an aging former Marine who had formerly been Leroy Jethro Gibbs' father's best friend. They had a falling out and had not spoken or seen each other in many years. Late in the episode we find out the story behind their bad blood. But the thing that made the episode special was the fact that once Gibbs tracked down his namesake he referred to him several times as a Montford Marine. When I first heard that it struck me as odd that although it seemed to carry some notable significance I had never heard of the Montford Marines. At the end as they rolled the credits for the show there appeared a note that the episode was in honor of the Montford Marines. Since I had NEVER heard of this unit I wrote it down to do some research.
The Montford Marines got their name from the camp where they trained in Montford Point, NC from 1942 until 1949. They were the first African American Marines and in that era had to train in a segregated camp from the white Marines. In fact until President Roosevelt issued an Executive Order to segregate the Marine Corps, all people of color were not allowed into the Corps. Nearly 20,000 African American Marines were trained at the facility and more than 13,000 of them fought overseas during WWII.
In June 2012, Congress awarded the entire unit the Congressional Medal of Honor and a parade was held in their honor in Washington, DC. Each of the 368 living members received a bronze replica of the gold medal, which is customary when a large group is awarded the CMOH. The medal itself will be permanently housed in a special place of distinct honor at some future date.
I applaud the Montford Marines for their service and the Congress for recognizing them in this way after 70 years of igNOrance!
I am also puzzled why I had never heard of them until that television show last night. I certainly believe ALL of our military heroes should be honored without any consideration for their race but these thousands of brave souls adopted the motto "FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO FIGHT". For me, that says something very special about these long deserving troops who were only able to do so after a special order from the Commander In Chief and even then reportedly in the face of severe opposition from the Marine Corps leaders.
At the beginning of my short military career, my first best buddy, whom I met in boot camp, was a long tall African American from North Carolina. I hate to think what my life would have been like during that very challenging time in my life without the friendship of William Gadsden. He was a good friend I will always remember. And, I am grateful to now know of the Montford Marines. HALLELUJAH!