Original Montford Point Marines Attend MCA&F C4 Awards Dinner
“Ain’t nothing better….the association has brought us blacks up to the forefront. Now people know. We were hardly recognized in the beginning, we are going to be just as equal as all the rest of the units.”
1stSgt George Kidd, USMC (Ret) Montford Point Marine
Montford Point Marines Staff Sergeant Charles Manuel Jr. USMC (Ret) and First Sergeant George Kidd, USMC (Ret) supported MCA&F by attending the 9th Annual MCA&F C4 Awards Dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia on 19 April 2012.
The Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. During 1942-1949, approximately 20,000 African-American recruits received segregated basic training at Montford Point - a facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After these Marines proved themselves in the Corps, it became impossible to deny the fact that this new breed of Marine was just as capable as all other Marines regardless of race, color, creed or National origin.
Young at heart, charming, and sharply dressed in his non-issued original dress blues from thirty years ago, eighty-eight year old 1stSgt George Kidd, was full of excitement and honored to be a part of the stylish event. 1stSgt Kidd was drafted into the Marine Corps in 1943 and retired thirty years later in 1973. Enthusiastic about his time in the Corps, 1stSgt Kidd told stories about his overseas experience. He was in the Vietnam War for thirteen months without a scratch and was one of the 1stSgt’s of the 9thMarine Regiment. He was one of the first black Marines to hold a senior position. 1stSgt Kidd was a top Sergeant, a black leader, something that was unheard of in the 1940’s. With a charismatic smile on his face, 1stSgt Kidd stated, “I had a wonderful tour, I have been out for 40 years now, and I’m still around.”
1stSgt Kidd is an important part of history, being one of the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps which makes him an icon and a trailblazer to all African American Marines today. His determination, courage, and hard work separate him from most. When asked how he felt about being a part of history, 1stSgt Kidd stated, “It’s almost unbelievable, coming from the cotton fields of Louisiana and not having a lot of education. Once I got into the Marine Corps, that was my salvation.” In 1949 when the Marine Corps integrated blacks with the white units, Montford Point Marine, 1stSgt Kidd soared. “I found out that I was as smart as everybody else. Blacks were not in the Marine Corps until 1943. I had to prove that I was as sharp as any Marine they ever had.”
Growing up in Key West, Florida eighty-seven year old, SSgt Charles Manuel Jr. knew he wanted to become a Marine. At age five, the Marines drilling on the Naval Station mesmerized him. Just finishing high school and getting ready for college, SSgt Manuel enlisted in the Marine Corps. He enjoyed his experience in the Corps, serving his country from 1942-1946. He was a communications Marine who was in charge of an expeditionary camp message center at one point. He loved his experience of being a part of the first group of African Americans to go through boot camp at Montford Point.
SSgt Manuel was one of the 20,000 African American Men that received basic training at a segregated facility, and will always be a part of not only black but also American history. When asked how he felt about his historical role, SSgt Manuel stated, “I am glad I did it. I didn’t realize the decision I was making was going to be such a historical moment in our time.”
Both Montford Point Marines, 1stSgt Kidd and SSgt Manuel were welcomed by Marines, family, and friends of the Corps. During the Dinner, BGen Kevin Nally, Director, C4/Chief Information Officer of the Marine Corps recognized the veterans causing a standing ovation in appreciation of these trailblazing Marines.
The Montford Point Marines were the first, handpicked men to integrate the Marine Corps. These men fought in two kinds of wars, one in combat, and one here in their own country. They had to fight Jim Crow era of prejudice, and the enemy. These patriotic men served in battle, provided critical supplies to those on the front line and evacuated the wounded to safety. Over the years they have protected their country, and because of their honor, courage and commitment to not only the Corps but to their country, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to all Montford Point Marines.
“Despite being denied many basic rights, the Montford Point Marines committed to serve our country with selfless patriotism... Embodying the Marine Corps motto of Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, these heroes paved the way for future generations of warriors, regardless of background, to serve in the finest military the world has ever known.”
~President Barack Obama
MCA&F sends a warm thank you to 1StSgt Kidd and SSgt Manuel for attending our event!
The Marine Corps Association & Foundation supports the Montford Point Marines and the Montford Point Marine Association. The professional association for all Marines holds professional awards dinners annually recognizing Marine excellence, and is dedicated to Marine professional development.
You can support Marine professional development and advance leadership by joining MCA&F. Membership dues and retail purchases at The MARINE Shop provide support to MCA&F programs. As a member, you will have access to our flagship magazines, Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck, to stay informed on issues affecting Marines as well as unfolding Marine Corps history. Members receive other benefits including discounts with affinity partners and member value pricing at MCA&F retail locations.