Phase II -- the final phase -- of the Montford Point Marine Memorial is complete.
This phase included the installation of more benches, night lighting and engraved bricks, according to a news release from the Montford Point Marines Association. The $1.8 million memorial is part of Lejeune Memorial Gardens, the second largest memorial site outside of Washington, D.C.
Phase I of the memorial installation included a statue of a Montford Point Marine, a "Wall of Stars" representing the 20,000 Marines who trained at the segregated Montford Point recruit camp during the 1940s and a 90 mm M1A1 anti-aircraft gun used by the 51st and 52nd defence battalions of the MPMs, according to the release. The gun, which was used extensively throughout the Pacific Theater in World War II, was delivered April 12, 2013 after a two-year search and less than 10 are believed to still exist.
The Marine Corps was the last branch of the United States military to admit African Americans, according to the release. While President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order on June 25, 1941 prohibiting racial discrimination and it led to the construction of the Montford Point Camp -- and admission of African Americans in the Marine Corps on a segregated basis -- segregation in the military wasn't ended until another executive order was signed by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948.
In 2012, a number of Montford Point Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal for their role in integrating the military and nation, according to the release, and 6 p.m. Wednesday evening 12 additional Montford Point Marines will be awarded the medal and recognized for their service at the Hilton Garden Inn at a sold-out event.
According to Gina Francis, public relations officer at the National Montford Point Marine Association Auxiliary, the following will be awarded medals posthumously to be received by the next of kin: Private First Class John H. Stephens Jr., Private First Class James Moss, Gunnery Sgt. Richard Sermon, Cpl. Robert E. Love, Cpl. Dewey Barnett Jr., Steward's Assistant First Class David Reed, Private First Class Willie H. Rushton, Private Ingram S. Patterson, Sgt. James W. Bryant, Cpl. and Jessie Phomas. Cpl. Henry S. Grange and Cpl. Edward A. Smith will be receiving their medals in person.
The memorial will be presented to Montford Point Marines in a gifting ceremony scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday at Lejeune Memorial Gardens, located at the corner of Montford Landing Road and N.C. 24 in Jacksonville. A reception is scheduled to immediately follow at the National Montford Point Museum at Camp Johnson.
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