Black Montford Marines fight for their right to serve - KMSP-TV

Black Montford Marines fight for their right to serve

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ATLANTA -

They fought for the right to fight for our country. The Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans allowed to enlist with the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 2012, they received America's highest civilian honor for overcoming their own battle in the U.S. military. Good Day's Ron Gant was honored to sit down with Ambassador Theodore Britton, who was one of the first, train and ultimately make history at Montford Point, N.C.

"It was a challenge. We were pioneers," Britton said. Nearly 70 years later, the Atlanta resident says he remembers his time as a young Marine like it was yesterday.

"The decks were stacked against us," he said, "In order to go into the white camp, you have to have a white person to escort you over there."

Ambassador Britton was one of the first to train at Montford Point. He and other recruits were military trailblazers; but, were not welcome.

"When started, you couldn't get beyond six stripes. These men each have three stars," Britton said.

From 1942 to 1949, African-American marines were not allowed to train with white Marines. They were sent to train at the Montford Point Base in New River, N.C. The men fought harsh conditions and racism for the opportunity to serve the U.S. in World War II.

Britton said, "Anything that's a barrier, I'm ready to knock it down."

In 2012, the unit received the Congressional Gold Medal for their ground-breaking military service. The 20,000 that served in the segregated unit paved the way for minorities to be seen equally in the military.

Britton said, "We inspired social change in the Marine Corps. Even though we were segregated' we were just as good as anybody else."

The 87-year-old who served as a U.S. ambassador to Barbados and Grenada is active in the Atlanta chapter of the Montford Marine Association. It's goal is to preserve the legacy of the people who persevered to break the color barrier.

MMA President Fred Codes said, "The fight was overseas and the fight was back home. They were totally undaunted. They persevered and opened the door for everyone to be a Marine, such as myself."

Britton says the pain of racism, military segregation and a strict code of discipline ultimately made him and his fellow inmates stronger.

He said, "You tell me something I can't do, you got trouble. I'm going to show you I can do it"

More info:
Montford Marine Association website

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