JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) -The opening of the Montford Point Memorial was an emotional occasion for the group of Montford Point Marines who assembled there Friday. Forty-five of them attended the ceremony.
The $1.1 million memorial features a restored M1A1 anti-aircraft gun, a 15-foot bronze statue of a Montford Point Marine, and a wall of stars representing the Marines who trained at the segregated camp in the 1940’s. Work began on the memorial seven years ago.
Some say the memorial serves a reminder of how far our country has come, and of the sacrifices these men made to serve a country that at one time didn’t even want them to be a part of the military.
Many original Marines remember the discrimination they faced after coming to Jacksonville. Richard Mayhew was one of the first Marines on base. He describes a difficult time when black Marines weren’t accepted in the community.
“They usually have vans that take the Marines back, but I missed the van so I had to take the bus,” Mayhew said. “So I got on the bus and I went and sat on the front of the bus. And the bus driver says, ‘I can’t move until you go the back of the bus.’ I didn’t move, so they got the MPs to come and take me off.”
Others tell stories of a lack of opportunity, even after becomming a Marine.
“From the time we’d get up to late at night we’d work work work, hauling boxes,” Reavis said. “During war time, everyone else was fighting but we were handling boxes. After the war was over, we came back to Montford Point and that’s when a lot of us resented that and a lot of us got out.”
But not all memories are negative. Some Marines recall supportive whites, who stood up for them. Many of these men, who are now in their 90’s, say they’re proud of the sacrifices they made more than 70 years ago and of the support from the community in building this memorial.
The second phase still needs to be completed.