In another lifetime I worked in account management at an advertising agency. My clients were The Marines. You know, The Few. The Proud. I worked in urban marketing, so my focus was the African-American and Hispanic side of the business. I was honored to interact with all ranks of the Corps and share their stories with the public.
One story that has rarely been publicized is that of the Montford Point Marines, the first African-Americans who entered the United States Marine Corps from 1942 to 1949. Approximately 20,000 African-American recruits received training at Montford Point Camp during World War II. Now the camp is called Camp Johnson, after distinguished Sergeant Major Gilbert H. “Hashmark” Johnson. It’s located within Camp Lejeune; where amphibious assault training takes place.
In 2006 my colleagues and I traveled to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina for a special ceremony to honor these trailblazing men. Actor Lou Gossett, Jr. was on hand to premiere a 60-minute documentary he narrated. With all the recent fan fare for the Tuskegee Airmen and the movie Red Tails, I still wish for the day that the Montford Point Marine story could reach a wider audience. To my knowledge the documentary only made it to a PBS station in Wilmington, North Carolina.
In honor of Black History Month it’s only fitting to honor the Montford Pointers, and Frank E. Petersen, Jr. — the first African-American Marine Corps aviator, who on this day was named the first African-American general of the Corps in 1979. Let the bugle call commence as we salute.