1st African-American Marines honored in East Falls

July 7, 2012 9:42:17 PM PDT
Members of the Montford Point Marines were celebrated for their service in Philadelphia Saturday.

Greeted by spirited applause and loud cheers, the Montford Point Marines proudly marched to the stage at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in East Falls Saturday to be recognized for a national honor: the congressional gold medal. It is the highest civilian honor given by Congress.

The proud pack of Philadelphia-area natives posed for pictures in front of family and friends while donning their brand new decoration.

"This goes back to 1942 to 1942," said Dr. Joseph Ginyard. "The many exploits and combat that we did overseas, and now to see them recognized by our great nation with the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a person, it is tremendous."

"Most Americans have heard about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers, but Montford Point Marines, they're going to say 'Who are these guys?'" said Joseph Henry Geeter.

The men are the first African American Marines to serve our country, and they served under harsh conditions of discrimination.

"They served in a segregated training facility in Montford Point in North Carolina. I call them pioneers; the first blacks to serve. They paved the way for me," said Geeter.

And now, decades later, their brave efforts are being rewarded in a big way that deserves to be captured on-camera.

Nearly 400 Montford Point Marines were honored in Washington DC last month, but seating was limited. Saturday, family and friends were welcome to share in the honor of these local heroes.

It was about reflecting on the Marines' years of groundbreaking military service.