GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The United States Marine Corps honored four Grand Rapids
Montford Point Marines in a ceremony held this afternoon at the United States Attorney’s
Office. Reuben Smartt, Bobby Jones, David King and Fred Johnson, Sr. were members of the Montford Point Marines, the first African American segregated boot camp operated by the Marine Corps. Around 20,000 Marines passed through Montford Point in North Carolina between 1942 and 1949.
On November 23, 2011, the President of the United States signed into law the legislation
awarding the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress, to the Montford Point Marines. President Barack Obama stated that “Despite being denied many basic rights, the Montford Point Marines committed to serve our country with selfless patriotism.” On June 27, 2012, the Montford Point Marines were presented the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Reuben Smartt and Bobby Jones were unable to attend the Washington, D.C. award presentation, but received their Congressional Gold Medals today by the United States Marine Corps along with family members of Messrs. David King and Fred Johnson, Sr. who were present at the ceremony today in their honor.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order allowing African Americans
to be recruited into the United States Marine Corps in 1941. The recruits received basic training at Montford Point, North Carolina (outside Camp Lejeune). Of those Marines, over 13,000 served overseas during the war. The Montford Point Marines helped pave the way for younger generations of African Americans by proving themselves in training and in battle.
Patrick A. Miles, Jr. stated that “The United States Attorney’s Office is proud to host this
important event, and play a small role in honoring the four Grand Rapids Montford Point
Marines. These men received this award for courage in defending liberties they personally were not allowed to share back home because of their race.”
Senator Carl Levin attended the ceremony in Grand Rapids and Senator Debbie
Stabenow was unable to attend, but sent a letter that was read at the ceremony.