PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Four families of Montford Point Marines were awarded Congressional Gold Medals Saturday during a celebration at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia.
The recipients were Colonel Herbert L. Brewer, Corporal Guy Russell Johnson, Pfc Thomas Edison Warren, and Pfc William Clerence Green.
The later Colonel Herbert L. Brewer was the first-ever African American Colonel.
The Montford Point Marines were the first African American men to integrate the Marine Corps in 1942 during WWII.
Due to segregation, the men were not allowed to train at Camp LeJeune with their white counterparts. Instead, they were placed in a field in Montford, North Carolina.
There they were instructed to build their own barracks and dig their own trenches.
Gary Russel Johnson Jr., received a medal on behalf of his father.
"Amazing story of these men who went to war for a country that at that time wasn't even close to fighting for them," said Johnson Jr.
"In 2012 just over 10 years ago, the United States Congress awarded the congressional gold medal collectively to the first African American Marines, and today we awarded four replicas of that medal to four families in the Philadelphia area," said Joseph Geeter, Past National President, with National Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.
Deborah Brown received a medal on behalf of her father. Brown said she heard her father was eligible for the gold medal, through Action News.
"It is amazing, I'm just sorry that he's not here to witness it personally, but in my heart, I know that both he and my mother are with me today," said Brown.
David Jones Jr. said he received the award on behalf of his grandfather.
"To find out that you have an exceptional human being in your family, and that he's also a role model I mean that's the gravy," said Jones, Jr.