Rockford’s Veterans Memorial Hall receives replica of Congressional Gold Medal
Online Staff Report
As a result of the relationship forged between Veterans Memorial Hall and the Chicago Post No. 2 of the Montford Point Marines, a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal has been donated to Winnebago County.
Sharon Stokes, Montford Point Marines Chapter No. 2 president, donated the item following the Black History Month event Feb. 2.
For the second year, Winnebago County welcomed members of the Montford Point Marine organization to bring testimonies of their experiences as the first African-American Marine unit. Before World War II, African-Americans were denied the right to serve in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 to address the discrimination in employment practices to include the armed forces.
During World War II, the nation was segregated under the Jim Crow laws and the Marine Corps was no exception. Black recruits were not sent to either recruit depots in Parris Island, S.C., or San Diego, Calif., for training, but were completely segregated at a new training facility in Montford Point, located in Camp Lejeune, N.C.
More than 20,000 Marines passed through the gates of Montford Point before the desegregation of the Marine Corps in 1949. Two battalions, the 51st Composite Defense Battalion, and later, the 52nd, were trained specifically for combat and were deployed in the Pacific theater. A total of nine black Marines died in World War II.
Nov. 8, 2011, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos supported the bill to ensure the Montford Point story continues to be told.
“Every Marine from Private to General will know the history of those men who crossed the threshold to fight not only the enemy they were soon to know overseas, but the enemy of racism and segregation in their own country,” Amos said. “My promise to you is that your story will not be forgotten. It will take its rightful place and will be forever anchored in the rich history of the United States Marine Corps. It is for this reason that the Black History Month Committee of Winnebago County continues to invite these veterans to bring their story to our residents.”
Veterans Memorial Hall is owned and operated by Winnebago County. As the region’s oldest museum, it is a repository for artifacts reflecting the contributions of local residents to America’s military history. Since President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the site in June 1903, veterans organizations have met and presented programs.
The Hall is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on special occasions, or available for rent by individuals or groups.
Visit www.veteransmemorialhall.com or “like” the facility on Facebook. For more information, call the hall at (815) 969-1999.
Posted Feb. 22, 2013
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